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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.

Raising an active kid isn't easy for any parent in the age of Xbox and Facebook. If you were a kid who hated gym class and are now an adult who hates the gym, you may find it especially challenging to help your child become more active. You know it's important for her health and psychological well-being, but you don't feel that it's something you can do.

You can do it, however. There are many ways to be physically active beyond traditional sports or gym exercises. You don't have to be a champion athlete to boost your child's motivation to exercise. You just need to be a little creative and willing to try moving again yourself.

Even if your children are teens, it's not too late. "There's always an opportunity for your family to start fresh, become more active, and get healthier together," says psychologist Susan Bartell, PsyD, an expert in child and parenting and the author of Dr. Susan's Fit and Fun Family Action Plan.

These expert tips can help you conquer the challenges of helping your child get fit -- and may improve your own health along the way.

Becoming a More Active Parent: Where to Start

Here's a no-sweat way to begin: Turn off the TV. A 2010 study found that parents who watched two or more hours of TV per day were more likely to have kids who also watched TV for hours. Other studies have linked kids' TV viewing to them having a higher body mass index (BMI) or higher weight compared to their height.

The next step is to start exercising yourself. "Active parents have a definite edge over sedentary parents because they serve as role models," says Debi Pillarella, MEd, a hospital fitness program director in Munster, Ind.

Getting into the exercise groove isn't easy, especially if you haven't hit the gym in a while. It's OK to go slowly. Try to gradually introduce more activity into your day. Set achievable goals, such as a 10-minute walk at lunch, and build up from there. "If you try to do too much at once, you're going to be turned off, and you'll turn off your kids as well," Bartell says.

Also think about what keeps you from moving more. Is it lack of time, motivation, or skill? These strategies can help:

  • Schedule time to exercise. You're more likely to be active if you've planned ahead.
  • Choose enjoyable and easy-to-do activities. Walking, for example, doesn't require any extra equipment or special skills.
  • Take a class. Learning something new can increase your motivation to exercise.


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