Increasing physical activity usually means getting the family off the couch:
"You don't need to take a big leap. What you need to do is take little steps away from that television set."
- Sandra Hassink, M.D.
- Cut down on screen time gradually. Aim for a two-hour limit on screen time for TV, video games and computers. "You don't need to take a big leap," Hassink says. "What you need to do is take little steps away from that television set."
- Get your kids into structured after-school activities - even if they aren't sports related. It will help curb their access to TV and food, Hassink says.
- Get outside for a while every day. Go out with a purpose: play catch, take a walk, or go for a bike ride around the block. "Kids are going to get bored if they're just sitting around," says Davis.
Since kids tend to be active in short bursts, give them chances to be active throughout the day. "If you look at how kids are active, they're active intermittently," says fitness specialist Stephen Ball, Ph.D., a professor of exercise physiology at the University of Missouri - Columbia. "They might run hard for a few minutes, then they might sit down and rest for a few minutes. That's OK."
Kids need several hours a day of less-intense activity, Ball says. He and colleagues have created MyActivity Pyramid as a guideline of physical activity goals for kids. It's similar to the food pyramid we're all accustomed to for nutritional requirements. The base of the activity pyramid is dedicated to "everyday activities," such as playing with the dog or helping in the yard.
"These are just things that you would normally do, but you're not sedentary," he explains. "These are things that we need to be doing every day."
Next come active aerobic and recreational activities like sports, to be done three to five times weekly; then flexibility and strength activities, such as yoga, to be done two to three times a week. The pyramid is capped with an "inactivity" level, and the accompanying advice to "cut down."