Encourage kids to exercise

September 21, 2009

by Jenni Sebora

Last week, I talked about the importance of proper nutrition in fighting the problem of childhood obesity. The other component to this, of course, is exercise.

Now, I don’t want to date myself, but times sure have changed from when I was a kid. It seems like our days were always filled with some type of physical activity. Growing up on a farm, there was always some type of chore to do - feeding calves and collecting eggs when we were small, and as we grew, we “graduated” to milking and baling hay. You picked rocks at any age. Then, to earn money, we spent hours detasseling corn.

Fast forward 25 years. Television goes from three channels to 200. Hopscotch, jumping rope, and hide and seek give way to PlayStation and Xbox. Instead of walking or riding bike someplace, we text mom for a ride. End result – not enough exercise.

So how can we get our children to get more exercise? Experts generally agree on the following:

• Children should have 60 minutes of physical activity per day. It does not need to be all at once. In fact, it may be less daunting to break activities into 10-or 15-minute chunks.

• Don’t think exercise –think activity. Encourage play time outside. Introduce your kids to the old favorite yard games like spud, red rover, or capture the flag.

• Set limits for the amount of time that your child plays video games, is on the computer, or watches TV.

• Try it the old fashioned way – chores. Encourage (or expect) your children to assist the family by performing physically active jobs around the house. Sweeping the garage, walking to the store, or raking leaves all help your child get physical activity.

• Plan family activities that have an exercise component. Hiking, geocaching and swimming are just a few. How about a few hours walking around the Mall of America (or some other mall)?

• Set an example. Make getting exercise a priority for yourself. Kids look to adults and model their behavior accordingly. Go as a family to a local recreation center or your school’s “open gym” time.

Have fun together!