Fit Family: How to Keep Your Kids Fit

by Mike Levinson

fit kidsWhen most adults think about exercise, they imagine working out in the gym on a treadmill or lifting weights. But for kids, exercise means playing and being physically active. Kids exercise when they have gym class at school, during recess, at dance class or soccer practice, while riding bikes or when playing tag.

Everyone can benefit from regular exercise. Kids who are active will:

• have stronger muscles and bones
• have a leaner body because exercise helps control body fat
• be less likely to become overweight
• decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes
• possibly lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels
• have a better outlook on life

The Three Elements of Fitness

If you’ve ever watched kids on a playground, you’ve seen the three elements of fitness in action when they:
• run away from the kid who’s “it” (endurance)
• cross the monkey bars (strength)
• bend down to tie their shoes (flexibility)

Parents should encourage their kids to do a variety of activities so that they can work on all three elements. Aerobic exercise can be fun for both adults and kids.

Examples of aerobic activities include:
• basketball
• bicycling
• ice-skating
• inline skating
• soccer
• swimming
• tennis
• walking
• jogging
• running

Improving strength doesn’t have to mean lifting weights. Although some kids benefit from weightlifting, it should be done under the supervision of an experienced adult who works with them.

Most kids don’t need a formal weight-training program to be strong. Push-ups, stomach crunches, pull-ups and other exercises help tone and strengthen muscles. Kids also incorporate strength activities in their play when they climb, do a handstand or wrestle. Stretching exercises help improve flexibility, allowing muscles and joints to bend and move easily through their full range of motion. Kids look for opportunities every day to stretch when they try to get a toy just out of reach, practice a split or do a cartwheel.

The percentage of overweight and obese kids and teens has more than doubled in the past 30 years. Although many factors contribute to this epidemic, children are becoming more sedentary. In other words, they’re sitting around a lot more than they used to. Parents should make sure that their kids get enough exercise. So, how much is enough? Kids and teens get 60 minutes or more of physical activity DAILY.

Here are some tips for raising fit kids:

• Help your kids participate in a variety of age-appropriate activities.
• Establish a regular schedule for physical activity.
• Incorporate activity into daily routines, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
• Embrace a healthier lifestyle yourself, so you’ll be a positive role model for your family.
• Keep it fun, so you can count on your kids to come back for more.

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