10 Ways to Keep Your Kids Active

Kids naturally want to move. They are born wanting to explore, to test themselves, to climb higher and reach farther and run faster.

But sometimes our largely sedentary lifestyles makes us forget that. It makes kids forget that. They sit at school, and they sit in the car or on the bus, and they sit on the couch watching TV. And that way of life is both dangerous and damaging. According to 2008 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, 20 percent of children ages 6-11 are obese, and 10 percent of children ages 2 to 5 are obese.

According to Letsmove.org, kids should participate in physical activity for at least 60 minutes every day. But it doesn’t have to occur all at once. Getting your kids to reawaken their dormant drives to exercise can be tricky. Here are ten tips to getting them in gear (and you, too!).

1. Be a model.

As with much of parenting, the best thing to do is to model the behavior you’re wanting your children to adapt. So dust off that gym membership. Dig out your old running shoes. Take the pile of clothes off the elliptical machine. Get yourself in gear, and let them see what “healthy lifestyle” looks like.

2. Let them pick.

Children are more apt to stick with a team sport or activity when it’s something they picked in the first place, so follow their lead when it comes to organized sports and everyday exercise. (But it’s good to make a rule that they must follow through with one full season before quitting and trying something new.)

3. Show your support.

When your child expresses an interest in an activity or organized sport, get involved. Don’t just drop them off at team practice; volunteer to help with after-school programs or sports teams. Become their biggest fan, and know that when you’re investing in new sneakers or equipment, you’re also investing in their health and future.

4. Use props.

Give children toys that encourage physical activity. Balls, kites and jump ropes are always popular. Trampolines are a kid’s dream. And every kid loves a new bike!

5. Limit the gadgets.

Turn off the TV. Confiscate the cell phone. Hold the XBox and Wii hostage. Do whatever it takes to get them to ignore technology for awhile and get reacquainted with their own two feet. Implement designated no-tech times at your house to force everyone up and at ‘em.

6 Make it a family affair.

Walk around the block after a meal (whether or not you have a dog). Make time to spend together with a fun activity: family park day, swim day or bike day. Replace a Sunday drive with a Sunday walk. Celebrate special occasions like birthdays with something active, such as a hike or a trip to the nearest rollerskating rink or playground.

7. Inject exercise into everyday life.

Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park far from the entrance. Your kids might complain the first few times, but after awhile it will become a healthy new routine. 

8. Make moving fun.

Enact a new house rule: No sitting still during television commercials. Or try dancing with your kids. Let them pick their favorite current song and dance to the music ... with you! (Then you get to pick the next tune. See if they like the music from back in the day, or surprise them with a pop hit you like!)

9. Offer incentives.

Issue a family challenge to see who can be the first to achieve a Presidential Active Lifestyle Award by committing to physical activity five days a week for six weeks. (Adults and children can both receive the award!) First one in the family to meet the goal gets a prize!

10. Put them to bed.

Remember that sleep is an essential part of living an active life. A recent study found that with each extra hour of sleep, the risk of a child’s being overweight or obese dropped by 9 percent. Most children under age 5 need to sleep for 11 hours or more per day, children age 5 to 10 need 10 hours of sleep or more per day, and children over age 10 need at least 9 hours per day.

Keep the TV out of your child’s bedroom, and be sure to confiscate that cell phone when they go to bed.