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Video games, TV and movies — they're all favorite activities among today's youth. But experts say physical activity is an essential component in a child's overall health and that it lays the building blocks for a healthy adulthood.
It's common knowledge that exercise and physical activity are healthy for a child at any age. But can exercise be dangerous or unhealthy for children? Is there anything a parent can do to encourage or discourage exercise? Our experts weigh in on the do's and don'ts of exercising with kids.
Get involved in your child's activities. When you show interest, your child will get excited, says Alejandro Chabán, a certified nutrition consultant and founder of the Yes You Can! Diet Plan. However, give your kids their space so they aren't embarrassed and don't lose concentration. Chabán advises, "Remember, this is about them, not you."
Teach commitment. If your children commit to one activity, try your best to make them keep that commitment. If they jump from one activity to another every two months, they will create a habit of not following through, Chabán warns.
Encourage kids to try harder. Although pushing a kid past his limits can be bad, teaching him to try harder is a good thing. "This is a bit of a balancing act, but well worth it," says John Rowley, a certified personal trainer and health-and-wellness expert. "Teach a kid that he can do better than he thought — it will pay big dividends in every area of his life."
Provide many opportunities. "Take the whole family on hikes, camping, to the park, sightseeing or any other activity on the weekends," Chabán says. "Also try to buy them toys and games that require movement."
Force them into exercising or practicing a sport they don't like. "This will only make them want to quit faster and resent you," Chabán says.
Use food as a reward for physical activities. "This will just erase all the work achieved," Chabán says. "Use toys or TV time as an incentive."
Push certain types of training that are too advanced for a young child. Rowley says resistance training, for example, is good for adults but should not be pushed on kids younger than 13. "They have to have their bones, tendons and joints mature first," he says.
Compare your kid's progress and achievements with those of their siblings or friends. Instead, help your kids understand that everyone has a different rate of progress and that they have to focus on themselves, Chabán explains.