Parents can involve their children in any New Year's fitness resolutions they may have in the works, says one fitness expert, by making exercise seem fun and exciting.
"If you say, 'We're going to take the kids out for a walk this evening,' most kids are going to say, 'Wait, we have to leave the video games or television?'" cautioned Michael Berry, chair of the health and exercise science department at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., in a university news release. "Kids like to play games, they like to be engaged, so exercise needs to be something that is sports-oriented or game-oriented."
Berry noted that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises kids to get at least an hour a day of physical activity, including recreation that involves muscle strengthening.
He outlined concrete steps parents can take to make exercise adventurous and enjoyable for children in the coming year:
- Involve children in compiling a fitness "wish list" to get at what kids actually want to do, and allow them a roster of activities to choose from a couple of times a month.
- Replace the typical family pizza night with a family fitness night to benefit everyone's waistline.
- Walking to school, sauntering around the neighborhood to see the local holiday decorations or visiting local fitness attractions -- such as a rock-climbing or trampoline facility -- are additional ways to for parents to engage children, Berry said.
- In addition to scheduling two to three moderately active half-hour exercise dates per week, parents can turn a child's penchant for gaming to everyone's advantage by carefully choosing those games that call for lots of movement and high energy. He cited the "Just Dance" title from Wii as an option.
- But in the end, Berry said, the biggest benefits occur outside the living room, whether that means signing up junior for team sports like basketball or soccer, or taking a family hike in the local nature preserve or park.
For more on exercise recommendations for children, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.