By Joanna Dolgoff, MD, Child Obesity Specialist for The Biggest Loser Author of Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right
The Age of Computers and Television has also become the Age of the Couch Potato. Instead of running outside to play, our kids choose to sit down and text. I believe that inside every couch potato there is an active child waiting to get out. All she or he needs are some fun ideas and a little encouragement. Here are some tips to help you and your kids get moving!
1. First and Foremost, Set a Good Example
Kids of all ages get their cues from their parents. Therefore, if you want an active child, you need to be active yourself. If you consider exercise a burden or skip it altogether, you are sending your child a clear message. On the other hand, if your child sees you enjoying exercise, he will be more likely to want to exercise himself. Be sure to talk about physical activity as an opportunity to take care of your body, rather than as a punishment or a chore.
2. Limit Screen Time
A surefire way to increase your child's activity level is to limit the amount of time your child spends watching TV, chatting on the computer, and playing video games. Pediatricians recommend less than two hours of “screen time” a day. Parents are often unaware of exactly how many hours their kids spend in front of some sort of screen. So set limits and monitor your kids’ time. When they have reached their limit, turn off the tube and send your kids outside to play.
3. Establish a Routine
Set aside time each day for physical activity. Kids are more likely to exercise when it is part of their regular schedule. Think about your child’s week and pick set times to be active. Get up early with your child to walk the dog, take a jog together after dinner, or plan active family outings on the weekends. The key is to set a schedule and to stick to it.
4. Focus on Fun
To keep your child interested in physical activity, make it fun. Pick activities that your child enjoys, like bicycle riding, swimming, roller blading, or playing a sport. You can get in on the fun by playing a family game of tag, going on a family hike, or setting up a jump-rope contest. Relive your childhood by teaching your kids some classic movement games, such as Simon Says or Red Light, Green Light (my personal preference!). The goal is for your child to enjoy the activity so much that she doesn’t even realize she is exercising!
5. Make It Easy
Make sure your child has easy access to exercise. Brainstorm some fun exercise ideas and make sure you have everything you need at your disposal. Consider purchasing a piece of gym equipment or some fitness DVDs. Show your child where the “On Demand” exercise shows are on your television system. Then, when your child is bored, exercise will be the easy answer!
6. Pour on the Praise
Kids love to be praised. When you see your child being active, point it out and tell him you are proud. The idea is to positively reinforce your child’s active choices. A simple high-five or “way to go” will encourage your kids to stay active! The sooner you start to encourage your child’s exercise habits, the healthier he will be. It is never too late to start getting fit fast! Exercise, along with a balanced diet, provides the foundation for a healthy, active life.