Just like you, your children need exercise—and no, ascending levels on their favorite video games doesn’t count.
“Physical activity helps kids develop mental clarity, feel less stressed and provides an outlet for their energy,” says Carol Harrison, MA, a senior exercise physiologist at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
Here’s how to help your kids get moving.
Set a Good Example
You can’t expect children to be active if you aren’t. “Your children watch and mimic your habits,” says Harrison. So let them see you not only engaging in exercise but actually enjoying it; if you make it sound like fun, they’ll feel the same way.
Limit Screen Time
Another example you can set is by not spending all your free time in front of a screen. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids get no more than one to two hours of time with TVs, cell phones or computers. Instead, “offer them active options, like joining a local recreation center or after-school program, or taking lessons in a sport they enjoy,” advises Harrison.
Find an Activity They Like
Speaking of sports: Not all kids are into things like soccer or basketball. Find whatever it is that your child likes to do—nature walks, dance, karate—and encourage him or her to pursue that activity. (Don’t be surprised if there’s a few false starts along the way; it often takes children several tries to find something they really love.) For children who are not particularly athletic, praise them for whatever they can accomplish, whether it’s learning to ride a bike or turn a cartwheel...and especially do not compare them with more-coordinated siblings.
Work More Motion into Everyday Life
One example you can set, and encourage your children to follow, is to put the emphasis on “being active” instead of “engaging in exercise.” Walk when you can instead of driving (and if you do drive somewhere, park at the far end of the lot) and climb stairs instead of taking the elevator; encourage your kids to bike wherever they can. Consider using a push mower instead of a powered one and a rake instead of a leaf blower. You can even turn household chores into a game: Who can bring clothes upstairs from the dryer the fastest?
Have Fun as a Family
Be active all together as much as possible: Several times a week, take a walk after dinner as a family. Explore parks and natural trails in your area on weekends, and plan vacations around hiking or camping. If your child plays a sport, volunteer to coach. These types of things will not only get everyone moving more but will also bring you closer together.
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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.