You know your kids should ideally be physically active for 60 minutes a
day. But with school, homework, meals, extracurriculars and playdates,
it can be hard to carve out the time. Need an incentive to rearrange your
child's schedule? A recent Johns Hopkins study said that if all American
8- to 11-year-olds exercised for just 25 minutes three times a week, there
would be 1.2 million fewer overweight or obese children, and it would
prevent $62.3 billion in medical costs and lost wages in their futures.
With National Childhood Obesity Month in September, here are
25 ways you can help your kids get those 25 minutes of physical activity. Incorporate a few different ideas into each day, and your child will
be up to 60 minutes in no time.
Turn chores into a dance party. Turn up the Taylor Swift and let your child clean her room while dancing
around--she just may start looking forward to doing her chores. (This
tip works for parents, too--grab your mop or broom and boogie down).
Walk the dog. Kids and dogs both need exercise, so having them both walk together gets
everyone taken care of at once. It's a great source of daily physical activity.
Plant a garden. Pulling weeds, planting seeds and raking leaves are all good calorie burners,
and, at the end kids, are rewarded with a beautiful result from all their
hard work. Flowers are great, but planting fruits and veggies has the
added bonus of creating a harvest of healthy food for the family.
Hit the gym. Instead of dropping your child off at the gym's child care, ask if
he's old enough to use the equipment under your supervision. Seek
help from a gym employee to make sure machines are adjusted to your child's height.
Create an "outdoor" toy box. Encourage physical activity by keeping a box of play equipment--hula hoops,
baseball mitts and balls, jump ropes--where your child can easily access
it and go outside for some play time.
Have a homework "recess." Even younger kids can come home each night with a stack of homework. To
help blow off steam, once each assignment is completed, let your child
go outside and move around for a bit. It can be as simple as climbing
a tree, taking a quick bike ride or grabbing some equipment from the toy
box in item #5.
Play a sport. Competitive or recreational, year-round or seasonal, individual or team--these
days there's a sport out there for just about every kid. Your child
may not end up in the pros like Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim right fielder
Kole Calhoun, but she can reap the benefits the Angels player says he experienced while
playing sports throughout his childhood.
Go exploring. On weekends, visit places such as museums, aquariums or botanical gardens
that involve a lot of standing and walking to see the sights. Or go for a
Get a neighborhood pick-up game going. If you're fortunate enough to live in an area where there are a lot
of families, organize a game of soccer or softball. No stakes or competitive
pressure--just a chance for everybody to go out and have fun.
Walk, walk, walk--everywhere. Set the habit with your child of walking up and down stairs instead of
taking the elevator, or parking at the outer reaches of the lot and walking
to your destination. This kind of "baseline" activity is part
of the B.A.S.I.C.S. fitness formula; to read more, click
Create an indoor obstacle course. Ideal for the days when the weather is bad--push the furniture to the sides
of the room, take all the cushions off the couches and chairs and pile
them in creative ways so kids have to crawl over, around or between them.
Give them a little extra exercise by making sure they help you clean up
when you're done.
Perk up playdates. The next time your child's bestie comes over, hide the video game controllers
and take the kids to the local park instead.
Enter a race. Sign up for run/walk and your child can do some daily jogs to train for
the big race. Most races offer kids 1-mile distances; older kids who show
an affinity can enter
5K races with some prep and planning. And they'll usually get a medal and T-shirt
after crossing the finish line.
Strike a pose. Yoga is great for kids' minds as well as their bodies, increasing
relaxation while also building strength and flexibility. Try a short session
before school in the morning or at bedtime at night.
Make a game of it. Mini golf, laser tag, bowling, paint ball--all are fun activities that
have the added bonus of keeping kids in motion. Look for online admission
deals to save some money or get tickets for your child and his friends.
Give them a gadget. No, not the kind that keeps them staring at a screen all day.
Pedometers are a fun way for kids to track their daily step count; fitness trackers
geared toward kids can reward them for time spent on the move.
Make a movie, don't watch one. Harness your child's creative talents and let them make a film, which
is easier to do than ever thanks to technology. Be sure there are plenty
of action scenes!
Play "old school" games. Not all physical activity has to be high-tech. Teach your kids the games
you used to play--kick the can, hide and seek, capture the flag, red rover.
Help others. There are many
health benefits to volunteering, and many opportunities where kids can help out in an
active way--beach or park cleanups, working at the local animal shelter,
or even just helping an older neighbor with chores around the house.
Give them the right tools. Under proper supervision, have your child learn the basics of woodworking
with simple projects such as birdhouses or small flower boxes. Some hardware
stores carry kid-sized tools and project kits; others, such as Home Depot,
offer building workshops for kids.
Bike to school. If you live close enough to your child's campus, make one day a week
a bike-to-school day; she can pick up friends along the way and they can
all ride in together.
Hit the trails. Many cities and parks have recreational trails that offer easy hikes at
the perfect distance for little ones. Look for trails with nature centers,
as they often have docents who give guided walking tours.
Master the martial arts. Karate, Taekwondo and other martial arts are great exercise, while teaching
valuable skills such as discipline and self-defense.
Just keep swimming. Whether it's in your backyard, at the gym or your community clubhouse,
a swimming pool is a great place for kids to be active--younger kids can
splash around and older kids can master their strokes. And it's a
sport they can participate in throughout their lives. Just make sure they
swimming skills before diving in.
Be an active participant. Kids are more likely to be active if they have active parents. Jump into
fitness with your child and you're sure to have fun while spending
valuable time together.
Have any active-kid ideas to add to the list? Share them in the comments below.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.