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Fun Ways to Stay Active
Tanya Altmann, MD, FAAP posted:
As parents, you should encourage healthy habits in your youngsters at an early age. Decreasing the amounts of unhealthy fat, cholesterol, salt, and sugar in your family's food is one half of the battle. The other half includes making exercise a routine part of your family's day. You may think your children get enough exercise at school or in gym class. But, chances are, they don't. Kids -- and adults, too -- need 45 to 60 minutes of continuous cardiovascular activity every day.

Need help getting your kids off the couch? Limit TV, video games, and computer time to 1-2 hours a day. Give them options for fun family activities, from taking a stroll after dinner and walking the dog to bike riding, camping, and hiking. Here are a few age-specific and fun exercise tips for staying active with your own kids.

2-3 year olds:
Most toddlers are not developmentally ready for competitive activities. But they thrive on unstructured play! Swinging, climbing, playing in the sandbox, and carefully supervised water play are fun and healthy activities that they can enjoy. Be sure to join in the fun with your toddler. He'll love it and you'll get some exercise, too.

4-5 year olds:
With increasing coordination, 4 and 5 year olds can roll balls, play catch, and take part in other organized games and activities. Biking and swimming also become options for this age group. But be careful. Practice certain safety measures, such as using helmets and padding, and adding training wheels to your kids' bikes. And always watch your children when they are near a pool or any body of water.

6-12 year olds:
This is the most important time for developing exercise habits that can help prevent obesity later in life. Find out what your child likes to do, whether it's baseball, football, swimming, ice-skating, gymnastics, dance, or martial arts. Demonstrate your commitment -- and encourage theirs -- by practicing with your children at home, coaching their teams, or showing up at their games.

You are your child's best role model. So be safe. Always use helmets and protective gear on bicycles (including tricycles and big wheels), roller blades, and skateboards. Apply sunscreen to your entire family (even on overcast days) to prevent sunburn and decrease the risk for skin cancer.

Exercise should become a routine part of your family's life. It improves self-esteem, reduces stress, and decreases the risk of serious illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. By stressing fitness with your children early-on, you can help encourage them to stay active throughout their lives and into adulthood. So make sure physical activity is always fun for them. Keep in mind -- if your child is not interested in a specific activity, don't force it. And never force them to compete if they don't want to. By decreasing your servings of junk food and increasing your fitness goals, you and your children can be off the couch and in shape in no time!

Share your family fitness tips with the group. What sports or physical activities do you and your kids stay involved in, either as a family or individually?
RoseLynn02 responded:
That's cool. My oldest daughter is almost 4 and my youngest is 1. We have/do all the things you mentioned in the 2-3yr olds ideas and 4-5yr olds ideas (except walking a dog since we don't have one...we have a cat). My 1 yr old joins in all the activities. We also do story time at the library every week & before & after she climbs & plays on the pirate ship that they have there in the play area or runs around in the out door children's garden. They also participate in the arts & crafts there (as well as at home). My oldest DD is in ballet. Also; they love to go to the park, the zoo, & the children's museum. We also have roller skates, t-ball, basketball (toddler size), soccer ball (w/ net), & various other sporty activities for them to do in our back yard (including the swing set w/ sandbox thanks to their grandpa). It really is so important to start teaching them at a young age the importance of being active. My DDs also watch Spartacus on sprouts ( a children's show with puppets about being active) so now they call fruits & veggies their "sports candy"! I love it. So would rather them ask for that than the other candy!

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