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Five Ways to Get Your Kids Exercising

Photo by: ICMA

As moms, we want to do whatever we can to give our kids an opportunity to have a healthy, productive life. We save for their college educations. We take them for regular doctor appointments. We try to make sure they eat the right foods.

But what about exercise? Is it part of our kids’ daily lives?
Not only are kids who exercise regularly less likely to become overweight, they also have less of a risk of developing type 2 diabetes and have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels than kids who are inactive. In addition, studies show that they sleep better and handle physical and emotional stress more easily.

And here’s a key thing for us moms to consider: the exercise habits our kids form when they are young will likely be the ones they’ll carry with them into adulthood.

So how can we help our kids to get moving?

1. Limit TV. Any mom knows that TV can make kids sluggish and cranky. So turn the screen off. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids under the age of 6 watch an average of 2 hours of TV a day, while kids and teens from 8 – 18 years spend almost 4 hours a day watching TV and almost 2 additional hours playing video games or spending time on the computer. Set limits on the amount of TV time allowed in your house. Find what works for your family and create a schedule for no TV on weekdays or weekends. The time freed up will open doors for other activities and a change of scenery can go a long way in turning that sluggishness around.

2. Get up and out. If your kids are young, be intentional about taking them outside regularly. Take advantage of local parks and nature trails. Climbing on a play set and swinging from the monkey bars can be great exercise for young kids. If yours are older, plan a hike and have them invite a friend. Or get them a new football or Frisbee and toss the first throw. Find out what sports or activities your kids enjoy and sign them up. Look into your city’s Parks and Recreation department and see what classes or teams are offered. Have your kids try a variety of activities until they find one or two that they love.

3. Drive less. Is your kids’ school within walking distance? What about their friend’s houses? If you have young children, walk with them instead of driving. Leave the stroller at home, and leave the house early so you have time to stop and let them look at bugs or smell the flowers without being late. If your kids are older, add something they might consider fun. Walk to the movie rental store and let them pick out the movie or video game. Ride bikes to soccer practice and have them lead the way. They may not be enthused about the idea at first, but your example can be contagious. And it’s good for the environment too.

4. Make it fun. Create opportunities for exercise to be fun. Come up with a contest and join in. Who can do the most pushups in a minute? Who can swim the fastest lap in the pool? Race your kids to the mailbox. Or have them race each other. My kids love it when I judge their cannon balls, rating them from 1 to 10. They’ll keep jumping in and out of the pool until I tell them to stop. When kids are focused on a goal or trying to win, especially if they’re trying to beat their parents, exercise can be twice as fun.

5. Set an example. Maybe the most important thing we moms can do to encourage our kids to be active is to be active in our own lives. Make exercise a priority, even if you can only fit a ten minute walk or a thirty minute exercise video into your day. It will go a long way in reducing the stress that often comes with parenting. And don’t go overboard or burn yourself out. Our kids pick up on our attitudes, so simply make exercise a positive part of your routine. Invite your kids to go bike riding or play tennis. Bring them to the gym with you. Go for an evening walk. Kids learn more from what we do than what we say, and a child who grows up seeing his or her mom or dad living actively will most likely follow in those footsteps.

Or should I say running shoes?

So what about you? How do you fit exercise into your busy day, or what are the challenges you’ve faced in trying to do this? What are some of your kids’ favorite activities? Do you have best practices you can share with other moms? I look forward to hearing your tips and thoughts.

Genny lives in California with her husband and two kids, where she balances writing with motherhood and loves both. You can find her writing regularly at her blog, and can read more about her books and articles at her website.

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15 Comments

We take our boys out to the driving range on the weekends - we try to make events fun and we do it with them.

Great article! I do feel my son has too much screen time but we have been setting limits and making more of a point of taking bike rides along a local nature trail. Last night he was the one to suggest we take a walk in the evening! My daughter and I walk with my son to and from school rather than drive and meet friends at parks. Thanks for a reminder of the different fun activities we can do out and about with our kids.

Take your kids to River Kids Gym!! That is the best way to get them to excercise and have tons of fun doing it!! I am the owner. It is River Kids Gym website RiverKidsGym.com or call 412 406-7461! Your kids will love it! It is located in Fox Chapel/Glenshaw area.

My daughter (8) and I have no TV in our house. TV is the most unecessary expense and waste of time! Four hours a day watching TV and families can't find an hour to get outside and be active!?! Ditch the TV!

I've been on mamapedia forever, and have never commented, but today's post about fitness got me thinking. I'm a psychotherapist, a clinical social worker...and when I see clients who have a weight problem, I use this little metaphor. It has to do with fitness...

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It is best to start your kids early with exercise. There is a product called Tone and Tune that gets mommy exercising with baby right after birth. It is great for mommy and also includes early learning concepts and bonding between mommy and baby. You can feel good about getting back into shape and doing something great for your baby!

When our children were young, we wanted to get them moving, and they wanted to as well. But we didn't want to drive all over town with a lot of crazy commitments that would take away from family time. They thought they might like to dance, and having grown up in Europe, I thought it would be nice to bring in some cultural aspect to it...

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I put an exercise bike in my daughter's room, because she likes to ride bikes. When she watches tv, she rides the bike. When she doesn't feel like riding, no more tv. I like to keep her tv time limited anyway, so it works, and to her its fun!

We bought my son a trampoline for his 10th birthday. It is amazing how all three kids ages 12 (girl), 10 (boy), and 8 (girl) will spend hours out there creating activities as well as jumping, TOGETHER without fighting (too much). So far no injuries except for scratches from the dog jumping up there too, he loves it!

I do triathlons, so I'm constantly swimming, biking, and running. I often run with my son in a jogging stroller, and pull him with my bike trailer. Although he isn't getting exercise that way, we normally end up at the park so that he can play, and he loves that. He's only 20 months old, but he already loves the outdoors, he walks and hikes with us (we also carry him in a carrier), and he runs around for hours everyday.

Sadly most of the comments posted are by parents who already strive for an active life for their children. It is the parents who don't monitor their children's couch potatoes habits that really need this article. It's preaching to the choir. Also in defense of video games, some of the Wii games are really good bad weather we have to stay in doors days. Granted we are in front of a television, but the kids are sometimes moving for hours and having a totally blast...

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I find it difficult to fit exercise into my day because I have two older step kids - 9 and 12 - and a newborn...when I was pregnant and now with the baby, I am more limited as to the activities I can engage in...but i stay fit by keeping up with housework and running errands, etc....I am by no means lazy. I also try to take walks around the neighborhood occasionally, but as far as the kids are concerned, they don't like playing outside or being active. I limit the older kids' tv and game time...

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Kids who participate in activities typically thought to be "exercise" are typically more healthy than kids who don't. It is a mistake to assume the exercise makes them healthier. In fact, it makes perfect, logical sense that kids who typically "exercise" more do so simply because they can; kids who are considered less healthy "exercise" less because they can't...

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to Kristi, to get the kids interested in hiking you could try letterboxing, my son does this in gym and not that the weather is getting nicer we will be making this a part of our outdoor activities as much as possible. it is like a little treasure hunt involving hiking, following directions and they get rewarded by finding the hidden box. all you need to get started is a rubber stamp, ink pad, small notebook and a pen...

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I feel for you, Kristi. We have a 16 year old niece that has lived with us for 2 years. She came from a very inactive household and was overweight by the time she was 9. She is still overweight. We have tried so hard to get her more active but it is so hard to change bad habits that are formed in early childhood. My husband and I are pretty active for having jobs that keep us at a desk most of the day. I run a lot...

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