Make exercise a family affair

Published: Dec 24 2013 11:40:04 AM EST
Family running together

By Barbara Floria, Pure Matters

An estimated one in five American children is overweight, according to the National Institutes of Health. Serving them healthier meals and exercising as a family can improve their short- and long-term health.

"Parents can actively help their kids maintain a healthy weight by getting up, getting out and together making exercise fun," says Colleen Greene, employee wellness program coordinator in Ann Arbor, Mich. "Doing so can make the whole family healthier."

Being obese increases a child's risk for several serious childhood medical problems, including diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, and psychological disorders. And, in addition to childhood health risks, studies have found overweight kids are at greater risk of becoming obese adults, with all the health problems associated with obesity lasting through the life span.

Excessive "screen time" has been identified as a direct cause of obesity in children because it replaces physical activity, increases eating, and reduces metabolism.

"Limiting the amount of TV children watch, the number of video games they play or the amount of computer time they have is an important step parents can take to get their kids moving," says Greene.

Get 'em up

Like adults, children should be physically active most, if not all, days of the week. Experts suggest at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity daily for most children. Running, bicycling, jumping rope, dancing, and playing basketball or soccer are good ways for them to be active.

These strategies can help you help your kids get a move on:

But the best way for you to help your children get more exercise is to join in.

"If the whole family makes the conscious decision to be active, they all share the exercise benefits, and, most important, the family can enjoy the playtime together," says Greene. "Being active as a family encourages children to choose an active lifestyle well into their adult years."

Source: Pure Matters