Families also need at least 60 minutes a day of more intense activity, and team sports can be a great way to get it. Unfortunately, lots of kids - especially those who struggle with their weight - have had negative experiences with sports.
"But just because kids say they don't like sports, doesn't mean they aren't going to like them in the future," notes Weintraub. If you can find your kids a positive sports environment, it will often become a positive experience for them.
Check with your child's school, organizations such as the YMCA, or your local parks and recreation department for options in your area. Talk with other parents about activities their children participate in, and the experiences they have had. "Ask whether [the sport organizers] emphasize positive experiences for kids, and equal play time," Weintraub suggests.
Look for a leader who doesn't mind if kids need to ease into drills and full participation. Some kids who have been really inactive might not be physically up to full participation at first, she says.
For kids who prefer individual activities, the options include dancing, biking, jump rope and individual sports such as gymnastics. The key is to let the choice of activity be your child's.
Because children who don't have many chances to be active are often bored, most will appreciate being away from the TV. They'll even notice positive changes after a couple of weeks.
"You relieve the boredom, and they like it," Hassink says. "They report that they feel better. They can do more."
And because they will be healthier, they'll likely have a lot more living to do.
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Christina Elston is a senior editor and health writer for Dominion Parenting Media
On the Web Resources:
- Body Mass Index (BMI) - This Centers for Disease Control Web site offers an explanation of BMI, BMI calculators for children and adults, and nutrition and weight resources.
- DavidKatzMD.com - This site of the director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine has information about his books on nutrition, as well as two school-based programs for kids - "Nutrition Detectives" and "ABC for Fitness."
- MyActivity Pyramid - The University of Missouri Extension's visual guide helps kids ages 6 to 11 to learn about increasing activity in their daily lives.
- Steps to a Healthier You - The U.S. Department of Agriculture's new food pyramid also includes dietary guidelines and a way to customize a plan to fit your child's nutritional needs.