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Get Moving!

Send the right message

In my family, nobody considers our daily walks around the neighborhood exercise. Sometimes we set out to find signs of spring or different-colored leaves, or to collect sticks. But never to "exercise." Walking is simply a regular family activity, and exercise is what we get when we do it.

If you treat exercise as a "treat," you teach your kids that it's fun. "I always make the reward for being active more activity," says Alexandra Powe-Allred of Midlothian, Texas. "We might go for a hike, and when they get tired I'll just tell them, 'Okay, when we find one more thing, then we can go swimming.'" Other ways to send the right fitness message to your kids:

• Don't limit yourself to gyms and playing fields. Leslie Garrison of Virginia Beach, likes to take her daughter, Chloe, to not-so-crowded malls where the 3-year-old can run and she can walk briskly beside her without disturbing anyone. Wide-aisle superstores (especially on less-busy days) also do the trick and allow Garrison to get in some shopping at the same time.

• Exercise like a kid. Bjork and her husband, Jay, shove both of their family room couches together, facing each other, to form a "trampoline pit." While they spot, their kids dive into the middle and jump and play.

• Make working out something to look forward to. By exercising together, you're giving your kids more than a healthy start: You're giving them time with you. "My kids will do just about anything if we're out there doing it with them," says Susan Swaringen, a mom of 5-year-old twins in Glenview, Illinois.

The bottom line is that exercising as a family means you'll all start to associate working out with having a good time. Kids of any age love the attention they get when Mom and Dad join in their physical fun  -- and doesn't a game of tag with your preschooler sound a lot more appealing than 50 crunches by yourself? Now, round up the gang and get sweaty.