Physical activity is essential for lifelong health and well-being. A child can't be healthy if he or she isn't playing actively or exercising most days of the week.
One of the very best things you can do for your children's health is to help make physical activity a habit—something that will be a natural part of their daily lives through adulthood.
Remember that your child's habits start with you. You are the role model. Your habits affect your children's habits.
If physical activity is a habit for you, it will more likely become a habit for your children.
It is important that your children have fun, so don't force them to exercise. Instead, find activities that they like to do and will do without being asked. You can help them stay active and healthy if you:
- Are a good role model—be active yourself.
- Create ways for your child to be active for at least 1 hour each day. One way to increase your and your child's activity is to break the time up into several 10- to 15-minute periods of vigorous exercise throughout the day, doing activities such as running, jumping rope, or playing soccer.
- Plan family activities that involve exercise. Go hiking or biking, wash the car, or walk around a mall. Offer choices, and let your child play.
- Make physical activity part of daily routines. For example, walk with your child to do errands, or walk to the bus stop or school, if possible.
- Have your child invite a friend over once a week for a planned physical activity, such as a bike ride, a water balloon toss, or building a snow fort in the yard.
- Join other families and create "neighborhood" time with group activities like touch football, basketball, or hide-and-seek.
- Let your child try different organized activities to see what he or she enjoys, such as tennis, T-ball, soccer, or martial arts. Praise your child for doing exercise that he or she enjoys.
- Allow your child to pick out a low-cost toy at the store, a toy that promotes activity—such as a jump rope or ball—instead of a food treat. Let older children pick out low-cost sports equipment or clothing, or an exercise video.
- Suggest physical activities for your child to do rather than being inactive when he or she is at the sitter or with another caregiver.
Tips for activity in and around the home
- Make exercise a part of your family's daily life.
- Ride bikes or hike together.
- Give family members tasks such as sweeping the floors, weeding the garden, or washing the car.
- Jump rope, dance, skate, or toss a ball with your child.
- Take your family to the park or pool.
- Limit TV, video games, or computer time. Sit down with your child to plan out how he or she will use this time.
- Don't let your child have a TV in his or her room.
Activities at school or clubs
- Check local schools, the YMCA, and other community resources for exercise or sports programs.
- Take your child with you to your health club if it has a family exercise time or a swimming pool.
As you make plans to encourage physical activity, think about the problems that might keep your child and family from being physically active. Common things such as bad weather, busy schedules, or just being tired can happen all too easily. Have other options so that you and your child stay active.
Current as of: September 10, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Susan C. Kim MD - Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
John Pope MD - Pediatrics