Move it!

Want to do something really special with your kids this weekend? Forget about taking them to the local fast food joint or renting them another video game. Take them to the park and toss around a Frisbee instead.

Survey says…

You’ve no doubt read the dismal statistics about the fitness levels of American children: one in four elementary school students is overweight and three out of four high school students aren’t nearly as active as they should be, according to the surgeon general.

Figures like this may leave you wondering what you can do to get your children turned on to fitness. Here are a few tips from Susan Kalish, executive director of the American Running and Fitness Association and author of “Your Child’s Fitness: Practical Advice for Parents” (Human Kinetics, 1996):

Start early. Don’t wait until your children hit grade school before you start encouraging them to be active. Get them in the habit of incorporating some sort of physical activity into their day from babyhood on. “If you start teaching them good habits early, they’ll stick with them,” she explains. “They won’t even think about the fact that they’re being active. What’s more, the habits that they’re developing will last a lifetime.”

Be prepared to walk the talk. One of the best ways to get kids to be active is to be active yourself, says Kalish. After all, you can’t expect kids to take the fitness message seriously if they can’t even remember the last time Mom or Dad bounced around a basketball or went for a walk.

Focus on fun, not fitness. “If your children want to stop and catch frogs in the creek halfway through your bicycle ride, let them,” she stresses. “Remind yourself that this is a fun thing, not a training exercise.”

Make activity part of your children’s daily routine. “Don’t give your kids the message that exercising is something you only do on Saturday morning when you’re wearing a cool uniform,” says Kalish.

Be creative if your child is overweight or unaccustomed to being active. “Challenge your child to a game of tag,” she suggests.

Don’t be intimidated if you’re less than jock-like yourself. “Exercising as a family is a great way for sedentary adults to get back into physical activity,” she explains. “Find an activity that you’re going to enjoy and start doing it together as a family.”

Remember that variety is the spice of life. “Don’t be a one-sport family,” says Kalish. Rather than sticking with one or two activities, constantly be on the lookout for new and interesting activities that you and your children can enjoy together — hiking, martial arts, rollerblading. When it comes to staying active, the sky’s the limit!

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