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Kid Fitness: When Your Child Won't Exercise

12 Tips to Get Your Couch Potato Moving
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Kid Fitness Tip #4: Lead by example.

If you vegetate in front of the TV every night, the remote control in one hand and a bag of chips in the other, you're not practicing what you preach. And your kids aren't likely to respect restrictions you set on their screen time either. So check your own viewing behavior and serve as a role model by incorporating physical activity into your everyday life. When you can, walk instead of driving. Climb the stairs rather than wait for the elevator. Regularly participate in active pursuits that you enjoy and let your kids see -- and hear about -- how much you enjoy them.

Kid Fitness Tip #5: Offer positive feedback.

Praise a child for perfecting that handstand or figuring out how to pump those legs to swing high in the sky. Out-of-shape or uncoordinated children need to hear encouragement for reaching even small goals, such as walking or biking further than last time. Remember, acknowledge the effort -- choosing to be active or trying to improve a skill -- rather than the outcome to help build your child's confidence, says Small.

Children who aren't naturally athletic may be self-conscious about their physical skills (or lack of them). They may also fear public failure, embarrassment, or teasing. A child may just be physically cautious. These kids need all the support and cheerleading you can offer. Nagging or negative comments don't work and will only serve to make your child feel bad, adds Nixon, who conducts research on physical activity and children at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Kid Fitness Tip #6: Bring a friend along.

Kids love to hang out with their peers, so invite a buddy along for a bike ride, offer to bring a friend ice-skating, or head to the pool with a companion. Young children enjoy going to the playground with friends to chase, climb, swing, slide, and run. If your child is more likely to check out a team sport with a friend in tow, then go ahead and sign her up. Just make sure the focus is on making fitness fun and learning new skills -- not competition and winning -- as this can dampen your child's enthusiasm for the game.

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