Monday, June 6, 2011

Encouraging Your Child to be Physically Active

Physical activity in all ages of children has been dramatically decreasing over the last years. Physical activity declines with increasing age and school grade. Therefore, it is important to make physical activity a regular part of family life. Children that have physical activity included in their lifestyle are more likely to stay that way as an adult. This helps provide children and parents with a strong foundation for a lifetime of health. So what can you do as a parent to help your child become more physically active? Parents can play a key role. Here are some ideas:

1.       Talk to your pediatrician. They can help your child understand why physical activity is important and suggest a sport or activity.
2.    Find a fun activity. Help your child find a sport that he/she enjoys. The more they enjoy the activity, the more likely it is that they’ll continue. Get the entire family involved as it is a great way to spend time together.
3.     Choose an activity that is developmentally appropriate. A 7 or 8 year old child is not ready for weight lifting or a 3-mile run. However soccer, bicycle riding, and swimming are appropriate.
4.     Plan ahead. Provide a convenient time and place to exercise.
5.     Provide a safe environment. Make sure your child's equipment and location for the activity are safe. Ensure that your child's clothing is comfortable and appropriate.
6.     Provide active toys. Young children especially need easy access to balls, jump ropes, and other active toys.
7.     Be a model for your child. Children who regularly see their parents enjoying sports and physical activity are more likely to do so themselves.
8.      Play with your child. Help him/her learn a new sport.
9.     Turn off the TV. Limit television watching and computer use. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no more than 1 to 2 hours of total screen time a day, including TV, movies, computers, and video game. Use the free time for more physical activities.
10.    Make time for exercise. Some children are so over scheduled with homework, music lessons, and other planned activities that they do not have time for exercise.
11.      Do not overdo it. Remember to tell them to listen to their body. Physical activity should not hurt. If it occurs, your child should slow down or try a less vigorous activity. If your child's weight drops below an average, acceptable level, or if exercise starts to interfere with school or other activities, talk with your pediatrician. 

Exercise along with a balanced diet provides the foundation for a healthy, active life. One of the most important things parents can do is encourage healthy habits in their children early on in life. It is not too late to start!

Please, please share your experiences, success stories, and ideas to increase physical activity in children!

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics website- reliable resource!

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