Parenting has never been easy. Since the beginning of time, men have tried to keep their children safe and healthy. But instead of protecting kids from, say, starvation and predators, like our cavemen ancestors, these days we're up against a modern batch of challenges: obesity and sedentary behavior—two equally formidable enemies. And since these are fairly new problems, your parents and grandparents might not have all the answers. Well, we don't either. But if you follow these 10 rules to keeping your kid active, you'll have a great head start.
Rule #1: Don't Rely on Organized Sports
Just because your kid is in T-ball doesn't mean that he's active enough. A new study in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine found that less than 25 percent of student athletes receive the recommended 60 minutes of daily exercise. Plus, the researchers found that the kids spent about 30 minutes of their practice sessions being completely inactive.
Coaches need to make sure everyone is participating in the game, so some children might have to wait their turns to head onto the field, say the scientists. They suggest that adults should take a more active role in the practice sessions, even if that means monitoring children with a pedometer.
Rule #2: Keep Play Fun
Don't worry too much about the rules. "Making a game or activity too rigid is the best way to guarantee that a kid won't want to be active," says Men's Health FitsSchools advisor Jim Liston, C.S.C.S. "Your job is to facilitate play, not dictate it." So if kids stop playing an organized game and start chasing a butterfly, just go with it. "As long as young kids are running, jumping, and having fun, they're improving their health and athletic ability."
Rule #3: Turn off the TV...
If you want your kid to get off the couch once in a while, you have to do the same. Case in point: A 2010 study by British researchers found that 6-year-old girls were nearly 3.5 times more likely to watch more than 4 hours of television a day if their parents similarly stared at the tube for 2-4 hours a day. As for boys, the scientists found that the little guys were about 10 times more likely to watch TV for 4 hours a day if their parents did as well.
Luckily, the solution is simple—turn off the tube. But what about "educational TV," you ask? Fact is, only 1 out of every 8 shows for children are real learning opportunities.
Rule #4: ...Unless You're Playing Wii
We're not saying that your child should start spending more time in the living room than the backyard, but kids can have a good workout by playing certain video games. Recently, the American Heart Association officially stated that Wii Fit Plus and Wii Sports Resort games are legitimate ways to stay active. And a recent study in the journal Pediatrics found that kids (aged 10-13) who played Dance Dance Revolution had an exercise session that was comparable to walking at a moderate-intensity pace.