How Much Exercise Does My Kid Need?
When my kids and I go shopping, I always park in a distant corner of the lot -- even if closer spaces are available. We pile out of the car and hike across the pavement, jumping over puddles and balancing along the curb. I don't park far away because I've read articles about squeezing in fitness (I have) or because I'm safeguarding a fancy car (I'm not). It's because that's what my parents did when I was a kid. With bike rides to the library, weekly hikes, and all those fun treks to the store, my parents had made it clear that being physically active was a high priority for our family. And now my own children are taking it in stride too.
"When parents promote fitness as an important family value, preschoolers are more likely to remain active throughout childhood -- even as many of their peers turn to television shows and computer games," says Michelle May, MD, an advisor to the American Academy of Family Physicians' Americans in Motion fitness initiative. "One in seven preschoolers is already overweight, and the number rises in the elementary- and middle-school years. Prevention begins at home."
According to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, preschoolers should have several hours of free play daily plus 60 minutes of supervised, structured physical activity. Even if your child always seems to be on the go and her weight is healthy now, it's still important to keep activities -- especially the structured kind -- fresh and exciting. A smart strategy: Present your child with a realistic challenge. "It's one thing to say to preschoolers, 'Let's see you jump,'" says Jennifer Romack, PhD, professor of kinesiology and specialist in preschool motor development at California State University, Northridge. "But it's another to say, 'Ooh, this is going to be tricky. Let's see if you can jump and then land super, super quietly. And the next time, let's see if you can do it like you're jumping in peanut butter.'" To help foster family fitness, especially during the winter months, Dr. Romack and other experts came up with these enticing games -- most of which can be played indoors. On your mark, get set, go!