Health and Parenting

Raising fit Kids: Move

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girl walking with parents
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Do It Together

Dinner's over. Instead of heading for the TV room, make a beeline for the front door. Go for a walk or a bike ride. Shoot some hoops or play catch. Just 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.

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boy running with dog
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Aim for an Hour a Day

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

  • Get the heart pumping (such as running and fast walking)
  • Work muscles (like pushups)
  • Strengthen bones (like jumping rope)

This hour of exercise doesn't have to happen all at once. Kids 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.

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step counter
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Use a Step Counter

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

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

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girl doing hula hoop
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Grab Some Fun Gear

You don't need fancy equipment to get your family moving. Sure, a tennis racket or a pair of skates 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.

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kids playing in sprinkler
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Set the Scene

It sounds simple, but sometimes you just have to choose the right location. Take kids 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.

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kids martial arts class
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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 you sign up, and let your kids pick their favorite. That way, you know the money is well spent.

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family playing wii
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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. There are lots of games -- physical fitness, yoga, sports, dance -- you can rent or borrow.

Kids who get up and really move when they play active video games burn up to 200% more energy than they do when they play standard ones sitting down. But it's still a good idea to limit screen time.

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family playing in backyard
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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.

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family kayaking
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Offer Encouragement

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.

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father and son biking
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Find Your Passion

If you want your kids to exercise, it helps if you do. If they see you moving, they know it's an 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.

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family in parking lot
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Sneak It In

For example, when you go to the mall, make time to park far away from the entrance. Inside, point out that 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 any chance to walk, run, jump, and play will make physical activity into a daily habit that becomes second nature to them.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 2/11/2017 Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on February 11, 2017

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SOURCES:

 

American Heart Association: "Physical Activity and Children."

CDC: "Making Physical Activity a Part of a Child's Life," "How much physical activity do children need?"

Health.gov: "How Parents Can Be Role Models for Healthy Living."

Iowa Department of Education: "Being a Role Model for School Wellness."

KidsHealth: "Fitness for Kids Who Don't Like Sports," "Motivating School-Age Kids to Be Active."

Smallwood, S. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, November 2012.

University of Maryland Medical Center: "Get Fit Kids."

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on February 11, 2017

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

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.