Get Your Kids To Exercise More.

If you are a parent who is concerned about your child's need for physical activity, here are a few tips that may help.

Recent studies show that today's kids spend too much time in front of the television and not enough time at play. One consequence of this trend is that many children are becoming overweight or even obese, which can lead to serious health problems like heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and cancer later in life. Too much television can be harmful in other ways, too, by exposing young children to numerous incidents of violence and sex.

If you are concerned about your child's lack of activity and a consistent increase in weight, here are some ways that you can encourage him or her to get physical by trying some easy recreational activities.

1. Limit television access. After school, allow your kids 30 to 60 minutes of nightly viewing and monitor the programs they select. Do the same thing for other sedentary activities like computer, video game, or telephone use. Implement the new limits one at a time so your child does not feel unduly restricted, and don't represent the limits as a punishment, but rather as a "learning opportunity" to try other fun things. If possible, share new activities with your child to set a good example.

2. Assign house chores. Before getting to the "fun" stuff, teach them how to contribute to family living needs. Based on your child's age, make a list of household duties that should be carried out daily or weekly. Be sure that some involve physical labor, such as sweeping, dusting, vacuuming, sorting laundry, walking the dog, mowing, raking, trimming, weeding, and other tasks. Not only will these promote more movement, they will help your child feel good about learning to care for home and property, and you will have more quality time to spend together.

3. Play ball! Plan a family ball game, inviting neighbors or relatives for a picnic, cookout, or even a hot chili supper on a cool fall evening. Soccer, volleyball, football, basketball, and baseball require significant movement and will help your child stretch muscles and exercise the entire cardiovascular system.

4. Get in the swim of things. Register your child for a swimming class at the YMCA or another community location. Swimming can be enjoyed year-round and is a great way to promote physical activity.

5. Join a team. Communities often sponsor youth sports programs that may interest your child, especially if he or she can try something new and possibly join a friend's team. Even 4-H offers activities like horsemanship and others that may appeal to a child whose competitive spirit is jaded by the usual community sports.

6. Make it a family thing. Get a family membership at the YMCA, metro park system, or natatorium. Sign up for aerobics, dance or swimming classes, racquetball or tennis matches, or hiking trails. Your kids will enjoy spending time with Mom and Dad in a variety of fun activities.

Exercise doesn't have to be mandatory and boring. It can be spontaneous and fun. Try these and other creative ways to get your kids off the couch and moving around while sharing some quality family time and making delightful memories.

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