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Don’t let your kids be couch potatoes

Published in Pediatrics, For the Health of It Author: Janet Handrigan, MD

When I was a child, we played outside until our moms made us come in. We played kick the can, tag, softball and sometimes just ran for the fun of it. Now we are afraid to let our kids outside without direct supervision so they sit inside playing video games. To be healthy, children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. 

Active kids have:

  • Stronger muscles and bones
  • Less body fat
  • Less risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • Lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels
  • More restful sleep
  • A more positive outlook on life

Watching kids on the playground provides perfect examples of the three elements of fitness:

  • Endurance — playing tag
  • Strength — crossing the monkey bars
  • Flexibility — bending during hopscotch

Ways to encourage your kids to get active:

  • Yard tournaments. Have a competition with games such as badminton, volleyball, Frisbee or hula hooping. Buy prizes from the dollar store to award the winners. If you don’t have a backyard, go to your local park or playground.
  • Play follow the leader. If you are stuck inside, march up and down the stairs, jump over objects, do a crab walk, skip, etc. When outside, set up an obstacle course, use the swing set, throw a ball in the air, etc.
  • Sidewalk games. Draw hopscotch, four square, your own version of Twister, an obstacle cross or a bike path.
  • Jump rope. Do this individually or use a longer rope to swing between two people.
  • Play ball. Learning eye/hand coordination while running makes baseball, football, kickball, soccer or volleyball all good exercises.

The most important thing is to lead by example. You are your child’s most important role model. So go play and have fun!