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Encouraging Exercise in Your Kids

The ABCs of getting your kids outside and active
By
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic-Feature

Reading, writing, 'rithmetic, and recess.

One of these things is not like the others. Though kids get plenty of reading, writing, and arithmetic at school, it turns out many can't depend on recess any longer.

Pressure placed on schools to produce higher test scores often means cutting programs that are not graded -- like recess and PE. An estimated 40% of all elementary schools have cut recess or are in the process of doing so, says Rhonda L. Clements, president of the American Association of the Child's Right to Play (IPAUSA).

Worse still, the CDC reports that in 2003, only 55.7% of high school students were enrolled in a PE class.

Yet the CDC says the number of overweight kids has tripled since 1980, putting kids at risk for early heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Now more than ever, we need to encourage our kids to get out and get active.

A Is for Access to Temptation

Webster's defines activity as vigorous or energetic action -- in short, everything that gets the blood pumping, from rolling down a grassy hill to kicking through piles of fall leaves. Adults often think fitness means a formal plan, a membership, or special gear.

Instead, just getting kids moving is the key, experts say, with the American Heart Association recommending at least 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity daily.

But many kids just aren't getting that much. And most groups are unanimous on the prime culprit: sedentary entertainment, meaning the temptations of the TV, computer, and video games.

"Most physicians and experts recommend children get no more than two hours of television and computer time per day," says Rallie McAllister, MD, author of Healthy Lunchbox: The Working Mom's Guide to Keeping You and Your Kids Trim, and a family practitioner in Kingsport, Tenn.

So the first step toward fitter kids is to reduce your child's TV and computer time by setting reasonable limits, recommends McAllister. Help your child budget their TV time at the beginning of the week, selecting the programs they most want to see. Investing in a device that automatically turns off electronics after an allotted time is also a good idea. This way "the device is the bad guy and the parent is not," says McAllister.

B Is for Being There

Once the TV's siren song is silenced, it's time to get moving yourself. That's because children imitate what they see, and if you return laughing and full of neighborhood news after a bike ride, they're more likely to want to take part in the fun.

But if your child is hesitant, don't force the issue, recommends Michell Muldoon, president of FunPlayDates.com, a web site promoting creative play for kids. Instead, she recommends focusing more fully on your own activity so that it has more appeal. More often than not a child "will become involved at their own pace and enter into the activity without feeling he or she has been forced into participation," Muldoon says

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