Four months ago I put a fitness tracker on my 7 (now 8) year old daughter. The results were revealing.
Over 119 days she took 1.2 million steps, the equivalent of walking nearly 500 miles (assuming she takes 2,500 steps a mile). She averaged 10,200 steps a day, nearly 2,000 less than the recommended 12,000 steps a day for grade school girls. She only reached 12,000 steps on one in every four days.
Steps needed to be taken, literally and metaphorically. Here's what we did to increase her daily activity levels:
Getting together with friends, especially when I insist they play for at least part of the time outdoors, is a great way to keep my daughter active. On the 20 days we had a playdate her daily average increased to 10,700 steps (as compared to the 10,100 steps on the days when we didn't have a playdate).
2) Took Day Trips and Vacations (DAILY BOOST = AT LEAST 800 STEPS)
The summer lends itself to adventure and we made the most of it by spending over 30 days out of town. A draw back of taking a trip is the traveling required - sitting in a vehicle for a few hours can put a serious dent in the amount of physical activity you can do. That said, the steps my daughter took once we reached our destinations countered the sedentary traveling time. Another draw back of travel is access to the grid. Days on the beach and up mountains meant days without Wi-Fi and a charge and we were unable to download seven days worth of data. Even without the data from these step intensive days, our trips upped her daily average to 10,800 steps (as compared to the 10,000 steps when we stayed in town). Indeed, on a day that included both a visit to a water park and a riverside hike my daughter took a record 20,600 steps.
3) We Got a Dog (DAILY BOOST = 1,000 STEPS)
Dogs need walking. Every day. Before dog my daughter was averaging 9,700 steps a day. After dog she was averaging 10,700 steps a day.
4) We Signed Up for Soccer (DAILY BOOST = 1,200 STEPS)
On the six days when we had soccer practice or a game my daughter's steps increased to 11,300 (as compared to 10,100 on days when she didn't have soccer).
5) We Started Walking to School (DAILY BOOST = 2,300 STEPS)
Walking to school is the best way for all of us - including the dog - to get a huge boost to our daily physical activity level. The 1.4 mile route - slightly out of our way to keep to sidewalks and meet up with friends - took our daily step average on school days to 10,600 steps (as compared to 8,300 on days when she took the bus). What's more, her energy level is in no way diminished at the end of the school day - she is still enthusiastic to run about when she gets home.