There's no scarcity of activities that you can make available to your child, and all kids can find some form of exercise that they enjoy. If you can get your child interested in an activity like this when he's young, exercise and fitness are more likely to become a habit that lasts for many decades.
With participation in all types of physical activity declining dramatically as a child's age and grade in school increases, it is important that physical activity be a regular part of family life. Studies have shown that lifestyles learned as children are much more likely to stay with a person into adulthood. If sports and physical activities are a family priority, they will provide children and parents with a strong foundation for a lifetime of health.
Parents can play a key role in helping their child become more physically active. Following are 11 ways to get started:
- Talk to your pediatrician. Your pediatrician can help your child understand why physical activity is important. Your pediatrician also can suggest a sport or activity that is best for your child.
- Find a fun activity. Help your child find a sport that she enjoys. The more she enjoys the activity, the more likely it is that she will continue. Get the entire family involved. It is a great way to spend time together.
- Choose an activity that is developmentally appropriate. For example, a 7- or 8-year-old child is not ready for weight lifting or a 3-mile run, but soccer, bicycle riding, and swimming are all appropriate activities.
- Plan ahead. Make sure your child has a convenient time and place to exercise.
- Provide a safe environment. Make sure your child's equipment and chosen site for the sport or activity are safe. Make sure your child's clothing is comfortable and appropriate.
- Provide active toys. Young children especially need easy access to balls, jump ropes, and other active toys.
- Be a model for your child. Children who regularly see their parents enjoying sports and physical activity are more likely to do so themselves.
- Play with your child. Help her learn a new sport.
- Turn off the TV. Limit television watching and computer use. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1 to 2 hours of total screen time, including TV, videos, and computers and video games, each day. Use the free time for more physical activities.
- Make time for exercise. Some children are so overscheduled with homework, music lessons, and other planned activities that they do not have time for exercise.
- Do not overdo it. When your child is ready to start, remember to tell her to listen to her body. Exercise and physical activity should not hurt. If this occurs, your child should slow down or try a less vigorous activity. As with any activity, it is important not to overdo it. 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.