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Raising Fit Kids: Healthy Nurtition, Exercise, and Weight

  This content is selected and controlled by WebMD's editorial staff in collaboration with Sanford Health Systems.

How to Keep Kids Safe continued...

Increase workouts gradually. Don't allow your kids to rush and rapidly up their workouts. They shouldn’t increase their exercise -- the amount of time, number of repetitions, or distance -- by more than 10% in a week.

Why?Injuries. Big jumps in training can lead to injury. Overuse injuries are common in kids who exercise heavily, says Brenner. By pushing themselves too hard, they have a higher risk of stress fractures, shin splints, and other problems. Their growing bones can't handle the physical stress as well as adults' bones can. They can develop lasting muscle and joint injuries.

Allow for spontaneous play. Your kid's physical activity shouldn't all come from organized athletics. "Kids need time for running around in the neighborhood with friends," Brenner says.

Why? Burnout. "Playing a sport can have a huge mental toll," says Brenner. If your kids push themselves too hard, they get worn out. They may give up on sports completely before the end of high school. You want to encourage a lifelong love of being active.

Get help. If your kid's exercising seems too much -- or you're noticing big weight or behavior changes -- see your child's doctor right away.

Why? Other health problems. Too much exercise is closely related to eating disorders and body image problems. Both guys and girls can be affected by eating disorders, and they can be very dangerous.

In girls, too much exercise can cause changes in hormone levels. They may not hit puberty or menstruate normally. They also have a higher risk of weak bones.

Ways to Stay Involved

So how can you tell if your child is headed down the wrong path? Be an involved parent.

  1. Watch the coaches. "Coaches are instilling their own values in your kids," Brenner says. Are those values you agree with? Are they worried more about winning than your child's well-being? If so, you need to step in.
  2. Talk about it. Have honest conversations with your kid about how things are going. Kids may push themselves in sports to please coaches, friends, college admissions officers -- and you, Brenner says. They may feel pressured to do it even if they don't want to anymore. Be open to your kids changing direction, if they want.

"For kids, exercise is supposed to be fun," says Brenner.


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