Fitness: Teaching Your Child to Stay Active

Overview

Physical activity is key to lifelong health and well-being. Children as young as preschool age benefit from exercise and fitness as much as adults do. Being active helps children and teens to:

  • Feel stronger and have more energy to do all the things they like to do.
  • Focus better at school and perform better in sports.
  • Feel, think, and sleep better.
  • Reach and stay at a healthy weight.
  • Build lean muscle.
  • Lower their risk for serious health problems.
  • Keep bones, muscles, and joints strong.

How do you help your child get and stay active?

There's a lot you can do to help your child stay active. Here are some suggestions.

  • Look for ways to make exercise and fitness more fun.

    Notice whether your child enjoys a certain activity. If they don't, look for other activities to try. Make activities more fun. You can make them part of family outings, make up games to do along your route, or invite friends to go along.

  • Expose your children to activities they can do for a lifetime.

    Swimming, biking, and hiking are examples of activities many people enjoy as they grow older.

  • Be a good role model for your children.

    If you treat your fitness program as an unpleasant chore, your children won't see it as much fun either. On the other hand, try not to emphasize fitness so much that your children feel pressure to keep up with your expectations.

  • Try to create a home atmosphere that encourages being active.

    Children who live in a household where both parents are inactive are likely to see themselves as being inactive too.

  • Limit screen time.

    There is a direct link between cutting back on these activities and increasing your child's physical activity. Remember that exercise does not have to be complicated.

  • Involve your child in organized sports.

    Sports are a great way for kids to be active while they learn valuable social skills.

  • Get your child involved in activities at schools 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.

Credits

Current as of: January 26, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Susan C. Kim MD - Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
John Pope MD - Pediatrics

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