Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Health & Parenting

Font Size

Make Kids’ Fitness Fun and Safe

By
WebMD Feature

Over the past 30 years, childhood obesity rates have nearly tripled among kids in all age groups. How can you keep your child from joining the obesity epidemic? Keeping a child healthy and fit means keeping them active. Ideally, you can do that both at home and in activities at gyms, health clubs, and in after-school sports. But what if your child won’t set foot in a gym or participate in school sports? Here’s how to keep your child fit and active, happily and safely.

Make Time for Fitness and Family

The best way to get your child active is to be active yourself, says Brian Grasso, founder and CEO of the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA). “If Mom and Dad aren’t active, the kids won’t be either.” He recommends setting aside as little as 15 minutes a day for “family fitness time,” just like homework time, dinnertime, and bath time.

Children do best in a “free play” environment where they can explore movement on their own, Grasso advises. So “family fitness time” doesn’t mean an organized program of jumping jacks and calisthenics. Instead, depending on your child’s age and abilities, you could try:

  • Simon Says. Make sure to include a lot of hopping on one foot, stretching and reaching, and jumping up and down.
  • Obstacle courses. In your backyard (or in the basement if the weather is bad), set up an obstacle course with balls, cones and hula hoops.
  • “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.” Pick up the great book by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury, and stage a “bear hunt” through your house, up and down stairs, lifting your feet high through “swishy swashy” grass and fighting against the mud pits and snowstorm.
  • Nerf or related games. Grasso plays army games using Nerf guns with his sons, 6 and 4, pretending to crawl through the jungle.

Experts agree that the goal is to make fitness fun and creative. “The key thing is that it shouldn’t look like fitness from an adult’s perspective. It has to be fun,” says Grasso. “You’re not an aerobics instructor. Take turns copying each other. Once you tie physical activity to fun in a child’s brain, then it becomes part of their life. The two keys are that it must be fun, and it must be movement-oriented.”

What if your children are a bit older and you haven’t exactly made “family fitness time” a part of their lives? It’s not too late to start, and you can start slow.

“Your first couple of weeks of family fitness time shouldn’t last more than a minute or two, because it’ll feel like a chore,” says Grasso. “If you’re happy and laughing about it for a couple of minutes, then the next night you can make it four minutes, and so on.”

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
 
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
 
mother and daughter talking
Tool
child brushing his teeth
Slideshow
 
Sipping hot tea
Slideshow
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Video
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
Article
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
 
tissue box
Quiz
Child with adhd
Slideshow