Ask Dr. Sears: Encouraging Kids to Be More Active

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Ask Dr. Sears: Encouraging Kids to Be More Active

Q. I’m starting to worry that my 5-year-old sits around too much. Any suggestions on ways to get him moving?

A. You’re right to be concerned — many children aren’t getting nearly enough exercise. In fact, recent figures from a Department of Health and Human Services study showed that today’s kids are much less active than those of previous generations — 67 percent of children in the U.S. watch television two or more hours a day — and 8 million are overweight. That’s why introducing exercise into your child’s life early on is one of the best long-term investments you can make in his health. A few ways to do so without turning fitness into drudgery:


  • Be active together. Go for a daily bike ride, take a walk after dinner, or have relay races in your backyard. By doing this, you’ll give your child the message that exercise can actually be a lot of fun.


  • Motivate him to move by telling him he’ll perform better in his favorite activities and games. Explain that keeping fit is important if he wants to swim more laps in the pool, say, or run faster while playing tag with his friends.


  • Sneak in exercise whenever you can. For example, take the stairs instead of the escalator when you go to the mall together.


  • Monitor how much time your child spends on sedentary activities, such as watching TV or playing video games, so you can be sure he spends the equal amount of time doing something physical. Or better yet, run in place, hop on one foot, or do jumping jacks together while he’s in front of the television.