How can I increase my children’s physical activity?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
It's important to establish a year-round plan to ensure your children get plenty of physical activity and establish habits for lifelong good health. Try the following:
  1. Get off the sofa and away from the computer! Active parents have children who are five to six times more physically active than children of couch potatoes.
  2. Plan all-season family activities. Walk for 45 minutes after dinner, take children to a swim club twice a week, go on weekend hikes, or do tasks around the yard.
  3. Make exercise a community effort. Call teachers, neighbors and parents of your children's friends. Plan activities together and lobby your school board. Get daily physical education back into your school!

The best way to increase your children's physical activity is to provide them opportunities and also to join in! Plan activities with their friends that require physical movement/play. Turn off the screen (TV, Computer, iPad, iPod, iPhone) and get moving. When they see you making physical activity a priority and including them, they will be influenced in a positive way. Before you know it, they will love how good it feels to get their bodies active and need less motivation to keep it going.

Increase children’s physical activity by encouraging them to join you in daily exercise and by limiting their sedentary time.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, parents should limit the time allowed for watching television, playing video games, and surfing the web to no more than 2 hours per day.  In addition, help change your child’s attitude and behavior toward exercise by expressing positive feelings about exercise.  Children may not be as enthusiastic about physical activity if they hear negative thoughts about exercise.   Instead, try incorporating various activities into the family’s routine.  The following are ways to help increase a child’s physical activity:

Walk with your child around the neighborhood

Take your child to a public playground

Play tag with the family

Enroll you child in a structured sports program

Keep in mind that activities chosen should be age-appropriate.  Ensure safety by providing protective equipment in the form of helmets, wrist and knee pads.  Also, younger children can strengthen muscles by playing on a jungle gym or through gymnastics.  As they get older, parent’s can then encourage adolescents to start structured weight training programs. 

The first thing you can do is set a good example.  If you want your child to be more active you must be active yourself.   Other helpful suggestions would be limit the number of hours spend in front of a screen, establish a routine and set aside time each day for physical activity, and keep your child’s interest by making it fun!

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.