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Get Fit With Your Kids

Here's a workout even the busiest parent can find time to do.
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If you have children under 18, sleep is probably much higher on your to-do list -- you know, the one you never get time to write down -- than an hour at the gym. You'd like to lose weight and get fit, but it's hard enough just to fit all your work and family duties into the day. If you're like many of us, you think you simply don't have time to work out.

The truth, experts say, is that you don't have time not to work out.

Once you start following a regular fitness routine, you'll actually have more energy to get through your long list of daily duties. Further, when you don't move your body, you lose strength and flexibility, says Shirley Archer, author of The Strength and Toning Deck: 50 Exercises to Shape Your Body. That can make it even harder to keep up with your kids. Exercise has still more perks for parents: It can relieve stress, improve your mood, and make you less likely to become depressed.

Even more important, when you lead an active lifestyle, you help inspire your children to be active, says Cedric X. Bryant, PhD, chief exercise physiologist and vice president of educational services for the American Council on Exercise.

"Our young people are less active than they've ever been," says Bryant, who estimates the average child spends about 30 hours a week watching television or playing video games.

The result of all this inactivity (along with too many calories) is evident in the ever-increasing rates of obesity among young children. Nearly 20% of children are overweight, Bryant says. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are showing up in young children. Type 2 diabetes, which is related to obesity, used to be called "adult-onset diabetes" because it almost never showed up until early middle age, says Bryant. "Now it's occurring among children," he says.

But just how do you fit exercise into a nonstop schedule? Well, if you can't beat them, join them. The answer for many busy parents, experts say, is to schedule exercise time with your children, not around them.

"It's no longer natural to move. It doesn't happen without us making an effort," Archer says. "It takes a little bit of strategic thinking to put activity back in our life.

"Family fitness is a wonderful way to do that."

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