How to get your kids moving

Mar 26, 2010 at 11:58 a.m. ET

The increasing numbers of overweight and/or obese children is not just a food intake issue - it's an energy output issue, too. We, as a culture, are taking in far more that we put out, and our children are suffering. Throw in school budget issues and gym being reduced or eliminated in many schools and you have another part of the obesity epidemic.

Woman walking with kids

Whether you are dealing with an overweight child in your home or not, you are a part of creating the solution for all our children. Prevention of future issues is as critical as addressing current ones, and encouraging an actively lifestyle for your children and family is part of that.

A life less sedentary

The rise of the computer age has created a world far more connected than we ever imagined. Our ability to learn about cultures far and wide, communicate with the person sitting next to you or across the country, and broadcast the minutia of our lives in increasing every second. It was unfathomable 5 or 15 years ago - much less 50 years ago. Yes, this is great in many, many ways.

Yet at the same time we are far less connected with the world right outside our windows. We are so attached to our media and our screens and our virtual worlds that we have become a dangerously sedentary people. We are not expending the calories we are taking in. Choosing to become less sedentary for and with your child is part of addressing childhood (and adult) obesity. Choosing to get outside to walk instead of retreating to the couch or the computer is not the easiest choice - our attachments to our screens is also the path of least resistance in many ways - but the choice is critical to addressing our children's and our culture's health for the long term.

Create active opportunities

In our busy lives, it's not always easy to be as active as we know we should be. There are so many demands on us as adults, as parents, as workers; even if we know that we should be making the effort as an example to our children, it can be hard to fit it in.

You can create opportunities to be more active in small ways.

  • Start by turning off the screens, and limiting the amount of time your child is allowed to use various screens.
  • Make sure you have basic sports equipment in the house and ready for play outside as appropriate to the weather - then go outside and play catch with your child.
  • Find extra opportunities to walk with your child - whether it's walking to the store or parking in the furthest parking space or taking stairs instead of elevators.
  • Enroll your child in sports activities and classes and advocate for physical activity at your child's school.

These are all efforts that really don't take a lot of time - but to make a big difference in the relative activity and energy output of you and your child.

The childhood obesity epidemic won't be solved overnight, but with steady efforts by parents everywhere to monitor appropriate food intake and increased energy output, we as a culture can encourage a healthier future, child by child.

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