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Getting Your Kids Off the Couch: Kids' Fitness

written by: Sylvie Colette • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 6/29/2011

We all know kids fitness is important. Getting your kids off the couch is the first step.

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    There are so many reasons kids are held captive on the couch. The TV is a big contributor. There are so many channels and shows geared toward children. Cable, DVD's and handheld devices keep movies available anytime of the day or night. Aside from the TV there are video games galore, computer programs and social networking for kids to fall into. Simple exhaustion from lack of exercise will perpetuate the problem.

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    Ease into Exercise

    Forcing a child to turn off the TV and go play is not the best strategy. Instead, gradually make exercising look more attractive.

    • Turn on music rather than the TV. Try different styles until you find one you can both agree on if that is an issue. Playing music when doing chores can make the time go faster, and could have the Tom Sawyer effect on your family. Dance around while you pick up toys, fold the laundry and vacuum and make it look fun. Maybe your family will join in without being asked; at least this is something to hope for!
    • Suggest taking a walk together after dinner or right before bed. Make it a habit to go for full moon walks, every full moon take the family on a brief walk and enjoy the changing seasons.
    • Purchase toys that encourage free play. Large outdoor equipment is of course one possibility, but so is a box of side walk chalk, jump rope, skates. New toys on the market like the Yo-Be are good choices for active, independent play.
    • Encourage creative play over electronics. Give your child an area of the house and yard that can be used to build, create and leave a little messy. Activities like building a tree house gets kids exercising without much prodding.

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    Do the Unexpected

    Change up the routine even more by surprising your kids, playing with them is a great way to increase exercise.

    • Toss all the playing cards in the air and play 52 pick up.
    • Pick up one of your child's stuffed animals and "make it talk."
    • Push them on the swings.
    • Time them as they complete an obstacle course at the playground.
    • More smiling and laughing while playing will get them exercising without any painful confrontations.

    Don't think this is just for the preschool or young elementary set. Older children can also be surprised into movement. Take it a little slower and offer to play catch or kick the ball. See if they can hula hoop. See if you can still hula hoop!

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    Family Fun

    Families can get into a comfortable sedentary routine out of sheer habit. Break the routine by incorporating one or more of the above tips for getting your kids off the couch into your weekly routine. Gradually add something daily and plan outings around movement, not food.

    Take walks together, head to the park to feed the ducks, ride bikes together or simply crank up the music and dance. This might seem overwhelming with all you have to accomplish during the day, but adding exercise to the whole family’s daily activity will create positive memories and increase your energy level along the way.

    If you generally workout alone, consider asking your child to join you. Even if it is just a once a week standing workout date, this time may turn into a positive experience for both of you.

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