From Parenting 24/7: University of Illinois Extension


Making physical activity fun

Posted May 30, 2008.

Making physical activity fun

In the last 35 years, the rate of being overweight has more than doubled for 2- to 5-year-olds. Children who are overweight at age 8 often become obese adults.

Young children are far less active than in years past. When they are sitting they are not running, jumping, or playing active games that help them burn up calories, develop muscle strength and set the stage for a healthy future life.

The American Heart Association recommends that all children over 2 years of age engage in enjoyable moderately intense activity for at least 30-60 minutes every day. This can be broken up into shorter periods that together equal 30-60 minutes if all at once is not possible. Parents can help their children get moving in many ways.

Parents can encourage their children to be more active

A parent should not force a child to exercise. Instead, they can:

  • Talk about how fun it is to be active.
  • Encourage new activities or physical games.
  • Limit inactive TV, video game, or computer time to 1–2 hours per day total.
  • Lead by example.

Parents can support their children’s activity by doing things to make it possible

Parents can transport children to places like parks or recreation centers, or pay fees for activities or equipment needed for their child to participate in the activity.

Parents can show kids how to be active by being active themselves

This happens when children see their parent playing a sport like softball or lacing up running shoes. It also happens when parents are active WITH their children such as when parent and child walk, either to get someplace (like school) or for fun, or kick a ball together. This kind of parent-child activity is great for the health of child AND parent, but it also allows families to spend some extra enjoyable time together.

Parents should make sure activities are age-appropriate

Young children should not be in the weight room or even on a treadmill unless under medical supervision. Activities for young children, in most cases, should not be overly competitive or structured and the emphasis should be on being active in order to have fun. Team sports should be postponed until 6-8 years old for most children.

Parents can set the stage for their child’s future health by creating a fun and physically active lifestyle for the whole family. Everyone benefits from that.

For more information:

MyActivity Pyramid

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