Family & Parenting

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Encourage a love of physical activity in youngsters

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, children and adolescents should engage in physical activity for 60 minutes or more each day. While fulfilling those requirements might not have been a problem for kids who grew up before the dawn of the Internet, nowadays kids are spending less time playing outside and more time on their computers or other devices.

That reality is problematic for parents who want their kids to embrace physical activity thanks to the positive impact that exercise can have on kids' physical and mental well-being. Parents hoping to instill a love of physical activity in their youngsters may find that taking a more active role by exercising with their kids is an effective way to get them off the couch and away from their computer screens.

• Turn errands into exercise opportunities. Many parents take their children along with them when running errands. When such errands don't necessarily require the use of a car, consider riding bicycles instead. Kids who otherwise don't enjoy errands may now find them more fun, all the while fulfilling their daily recommended quotas for exercise and spending quality time with their parents.

• Include kids in your own athletic pursuits. Parents might not be able to take younger kids along with them to the gym, but that does not mean your youngsters must be excluded from all of your athletic pursuits. If you have any upcoming athletic activities or challenges on your schedule, such as a new recreational sports season or community fun run or 5K, let kids tag along as you train or practice. Parents of adolescents can inquire at their local gyms if they offer discounted memberships to teens. If so, take kids along with you on trips to the gym so they learn the value and benefits of daily strength and conditioning exercises.

• Make more time to play. Parents may already have busy schedules, but finding time to play with their kids is a great way to get youngsters to embrace physical activity. Kids might be reluctant to shoot hoops in the driveway if no one is willing to join them, but they will likely be far more willing to do so if mom and dad are willing to play with them. This is not only a good way for parents to ensure their kids get enough exercise, but also a great and fun way for moms and dads to make time for physical activity.

• Recognize that physical activity does not have to mean organized sports. Some kids have no interest in team sports while others do not have the athletic ability to compete after a certain age. Parents who want their kids to exercise more should recognize that there are plenty of ways to be physically active that do not involve organized team sports. Hiking; riding bicycles; swimming at a nearby pool, lake or ocean; and even going for nightly walks are all physical activities that people of all ages and athletic abilities can enjoy.

Physical activity is an important component of a healthy lifestyle. While getting kids to put down their tablets and gaming system remote controls may not be easy, parents who resolve to exercise with their children might find their youngsters more receptive to regular physical activity.