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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 Get Kids to Love Exercise

Do It Together

Dinner's over. Instead of heading for the TV room, make a beeline for the door. Go for a walk. Keep the conversation light. This is not the time to go over your child's grades or chores. If it's fun for everyone, you'll all want to keep doing it.

Aim for an Hour a Day

Kids need to move for a total of 60 minutes a day. It should be a mix of:

  • Aerobics (such as running and fast walking)
  • Muscle strengthening (pushups)
  • Bone strengthening (jumping rope)

This hour of exercise doesn't have to happen all at once. They can split it up over the course of the day. Have them take a brisk walk with the dog after school, play on a jungle gym -- it all adds up.

Use a Step Counter

Kids love gadgets. A step counter (aka pedometer) can motivate them to move more. Get one for everyone. Then use mini-challenges to get moving throughout the day.

How many steps to the telephone pole? How quickly can you take 80 steps?  See if they like posting a tally of steps in the kitchen for a little friendly competition, or have them try and beat their personal record.

Grab Some Fun Gear

Physical activity doesn’t have to be a competition, and you don’t need fancy equipment.

Sure, a tennis racket or a pair of skis can provide a little inspiration, but a simple, affordable jump rope or an inflatable beach ball can do the trick, too. Keep a hidden stash of new outdoor toys. Then bust 'em out on days when your kids seem bored.

Set the Scene

It sounds simple but sometimes, you just have to choose the right location. Take them to a playground or a baseball field. Go to the park. Have a picnic by a lake with a few of their friends. 

You may not have to do much to get them moving. They may be inspired by their surroundings or other kids.

Shop Around for Classes

Classes -- whether aikido or dance, tennis or yoga -- can be a great way to get your kids to love physical activity.

Visit some classes for free before signing up. Let your kids pick their favorite, and then sign them up. That way, you know the money is well spent.

Play Video Games? Yes!

When it comes to fitness, video games don't have to be the enemy. Use a game system with a motion sensor, like the Kinect or Wii.

Kids who get up and really move when they play active video games burn up to 200% more energy than kids who play regular video games sitting down. There are lots of games -- physical fitness, yoga, sports, dance -- you can rent or borrow. But it is still a good idea to limit screen time to 2 hours a day or less.

Make It Fun

Grab your child's hand and go jump in a pile of leaves. You don't even have to say "exercise." Plant some tulips. Walk to the library. Make a snowman. Make it a seamless, fun part of their everyday life, not something they "have to" do.

Offer Encouragement

It can take a while. If your child doesn't take to exercise right away, don't give up. Praise what they do. Help them try out activities that don’t have to be competitive, like hiking or kayaking.

The key is to help them find their element. Keep trying different sports or activities. Help them see that physical activity is for everybody.

Find Your Passion

If you want your kids to exercise, it helps if you do. If they see you moving, they know it’s a normal, important part of life that can be fun!  

So what's your thing?  Find an activity that you really enjoy. Then share it with your kids. It's OK if you haven’t been moving much either. You can start together.

Sneak It In

For example, when you go to the mall, make time to park far away from the entrance. Inside, point out sometimes it's better to take the stairs than to wait for the elevator. Race to see who can put away toys first or make the biggest pile of leaves.

Taking advantage of opportunities to walk, run, jump, and play will make getting physical activity a daily habit that becomes second nature to them.

Raising Fit Kids Move TOC

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 31, 2015

Sources: Sources

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information: Disclaimer

© 2013 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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