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Health & Parenting

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Kid Fitness: When Your Child Won't Exercise

12 Tips to Get Your Couch Potato Moving

Kid Fitness Tip #7: Use exercise as a reward.

Forcing a child to go outside and play may backfire and increase resentment and resistance. "Exercise should never be punitive," says Small. "Don't make your child run laps or do push-ups as punishment." Instead, try using physical activity as a reward. Your child might be happy to play kickball for 20 minutes if it's a chance to take a break from homework.

Kid Fitness Tip #8: Establish a regular routine.

Make sure that children's fitness is plugged into the family schedule in the same way that school, work, shopping, chores, family gatherings, birthday parties, and playdates find their way onto the calendar. You and your child are more likely to stick to an exercise plan if you incorporate it into your life on a routine basis. And your child will begin to expect (and accept) that Saturday morning usually means a bike ride, and a couple of nights a week after dinner the family takes a brisk walk through the neighborhood.

Kid Fitness Tip #9: Take a non-negotiable position.

Is going to school, brushing teeth, or wearing a seat belt a subject of debate in your home? No, because these are all activities that promote the health, safety, and well-being of your child. Well, the same approach should apply to children's fitness, says Nixon. It's a no-brainer: Getting regular exercise is good for your mental and physical health. Stand firm from the get-go and don't let your child argue the merits of playing computer games versus playing ball games.

Kid Fitness Tip #10: Instill the idea that exercise is in.

Some kids really respond to the concept of doing something that's cool. Maybe your child wants to grind on a skateboard like Tony Hawke, deliver a karate kick a la Bruce Lee, learn the latest hip hop routine, or master the moves of capoeira. Older children, in particular, may have strong opinions about what's hip and what isn't. If it's safe and active and encourages your child to get in shape, then allow your kid to pick an activity that appeals to his sense of style.

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