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One Town Gets Children to Live a Healthy Lifestyle

Try This at Home

Follow the 1-to-2 rule: Kids need at least one hour of physical activity every day, and no more than two hours of screen time — watching TV, playing video games, or using the computer recreationally. Here's how to fill that offscreen hour:

  • Expand your idea of exercise: If your kid's not interested in high-stress team sports, find an activity that fits his personality and interests, such as swimming, horseback riding, skateboarding, or simply a lower-key sports program (call directors of town and local leagues to judge the level of play). And don't be surprised if increased confidence makes your kid more comfortable with competition. "Some kids from the YMCA program were inspired to try out for the varsity high school sports teams," Pinto says.
  • Make it easy: Gather outdoor sports and play equipment like balls, racquets, skates, skateboards, and sidewalk chalk for hopscotch in one handy location. The Tull family now makes a point of keeping their bicycles tuned and tires pumped, so they're ready to ride whenever the urge strikes them. And scope out nearby parks, biking and hiking trails, and playgrounds ahead of time, so you'll have ideas ready for Saturday afternoons or for a quick outing after dinner.
  • Use the great indoors: A hopscotch mat, a CD player, and some danceable tunes — even a roll of painter's tape — can turn a cold, rainy afternoon into a fun movement marathon, especially for a group of youngsters. Try the Somerville YMCA jumping game: Tape a starting line on the floor, then have each player leap from a standing position; mark their landing spots with tape labels to see who gets farthest. Jumping burns calories and boosts heart rates, and the impact helps build strong, healthy bones in growing children, says Economos.

Work out together: Susan Kamin exercises with her son Charlie, 11, to fitness videos several times a week. "We try different videos, some for adults and kids, others that just look like they'd be fun to do," she says. "It's good for both of us."

Shape Up Your Hometown

What made such a stunning difference in Somerville, says Economos, was "a lot of people making smart, small changes." But Somerville's not the only city whose citizens have banded together for the common good. Neighbors nationwide have made thoughtful improvements that benefited their communities — and you can, too.

  • Revive Walking to School

This Community Made It Happen: Fairfax, CA. Deirdra Rogers organized one of the nation's first Safe Routes to School programs at the town's Manor School. In two years, the number of pupils who walked or biked to the elementary school rose from 21 percent to 38 percent.

What You Can Do: After scoping out an appropriate route, start a "walk to school day" once a week in your neighborhood. If you live farther than walking distance from school, drive partway and then walk the remainder with your child. For information on starting your own local program to develop good walking routes to your local schools, visit

  • Upgrade School Food

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