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Couch Potatoes May Start as Tater Tots

A Sedentary Lifestyle Can Be Evident as Early as Age 3; Here's How Parents Can Help
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Both Hill and Reilly's team say that the study should serve as indication for the need for more public policy measures to increase physical activity among young kids, even before they start school.

But is it possible to be "too young" to start an exercise regimen?

Perhaps, says Hill, and that's where you come in.

"The problem with many adults is they don't think of exercise as fun, so I'm not suggesting that you give a 3 year old a gym membership -- that may teach them to not enjoy exercise," he tells WebMD. "You just want them to go outside and have fun. The fact is, kids love sitting in front of the TV and playing video games. But when their parents get them outside playing, they love that, too."

This is true especially if you join them, which can help keep your own weight in check.

"Go out there with your kids and play tag or touch football, or take them to the playground," says Hill, director of UC's Center for Human Nutrition and on the steering committee for America on the Move, a program to promote "energy balance" in young Americans by encouraging more exercise.

"You don't want to be measuring their resting heart rate or timing them to make sure they get their 60 minutes -- short bursts of regular activity are also fine. Just help them have fun, so they get in the habit of thinking of physical activity that way."

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