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Physical Activity Tips for Busy Kids and Families

 Are your kids getting the physical activity they need to stay healthy? Youth ages 6 to 17 need at least 60 minutes of activity daily, says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. But only about one-quarter of American children meet these guidelines. Parents can no longer count on schools to make sure kids get the exercise they need. Nowadays, only about 30 percent of high school students take gym class daily.

An hour can seem like a lot of time for today’s busy kids, who often juggle homework and extracurricular activities. But homework shouldn’t be an excuse for inactivity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, students who are physically active tend to have higher grade point averages. Other research shows that regular physical activity is linked with better classroom behavior and improved thinking skills. Dark evenings and cold, snowy winters may also discourage kids from being active.

It’s well worth overcoming these obstacles. Physical activity helps kids develop healthy muscles and bones. It also reduces their risk of developing conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. What’s more, active kids have lower blood pressure and healthier cholesterol levels.

Parents play a key role in helping kids stay active. Kids are more likely to be active if they have the support of their families. Try these strategies to keep your kids moving this fall and winter.

Get Active as a Family

Make moving more a goal for your entire family. Your views toward physical activity can influence what your kids think of exercise. So set a good example by joining in yourself. Here are some fun ideas you can all do together:

  • Schedule an active family fun day over the weekend. Go for a bike ride or hike together and look at the fall colors. Have a pickup football game in the back yard. In November and December, walk around your neighborhood to check out the holiday decorations.

  • Find an exercise video online made for kids and do it with your child.

  • When one of your children has a sports game, bike to the game as a family and cheer for your athlete.

  • Go for a family walk together after dinner instead of watching TV.

  • Start a family competition. See who can be the first person in your family to meet a certain physical activity goal, such as exercising five days in a week.

  • Sign up for a charity walk or run as a family. Train together for the event. 

  • Go ice skating at an indoor rink together.

  • Head to your local ski slope and enjoy a day of downhill skiing or snowboarding.

Stay Active All Winter Long

Cold temperatures, icy sidewalks, and snow-covered playgrounds can make it more challenging for kids to be active. But it’s not impossible. Think creatively to find activities your children will enjoy. Your kids will be more likely to do an activity if they enjoy it. Talk with your kids to see if they’d be interested in any of these options (and don’t forget to ask them what they want to do):

  • Join a sports team. If your child doesn’t like team sports, suggest individual sports that your child can do indoors, such as swimming at an indoor pool.

  • Enroll in a series of classes to learn a new skill. Gymnastics, swimming, figure skating, or martial arts lessons are some indoor options. Older kids may want to take skiing or snowboarding lessons.

  • Take advantage of the snow. Go sledding or snowshoeing, build a snowman, or follow animal tracks.

Build Activity into the Day

If your children don’t have a 60-minute block of time for exercise each day, don’t worry. They don’t have to do it all at once. Try these ideas to sneak physical activity into your kids’ days—every little bit counts:

  • Walk with your kids to school two to three times each week. Older children may be allowed to walk to school with friends.

  • Assign your children active chores, such as sweeping or raking leaves.

  • When running errands with your kids, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Encourage them to do the same thing when they’re on their own.

You don’t need to let busy school days and cold weather keep your family from being active. With a little creativity, you’ll find plenty of ways to stay fit this season.