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The Princeton Longevity Center Medical News

Playful Fitness Tips for Kids
By: Chris Volgraf, CSCS

September brings a little bit of sanity back to most parents’ lives as it marks the beginning of school for children across America.  The return to normalcy also ushers in a myriad of challenges to families with two working parents. Often overlooked is the need for children to get a sufficient amount of exercise at school and at home.

As recent surveys and studies show, childhood obesity is reaching unimaginable levels. A third of the children in America (25 million) are overweight and seem destined to encounter a life long battle with weight, diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure and ultimately, heart disease.  As role models to our children and with two-thirds of the adult population considered overweight - we may not be setting the best example.  No matter how busy our lives get, we must make time for fitness and preach healthy choices with diet and nutrition. Here are a few fun fitness tips for busy families looking to get their kids moving in the right direction.

  • No more video games—maybe not?  The Nintendo Wii Fit has provided families a fun way to spend some time together with fitness being the centerpiece.  Wii Fit allows the players to build a fitness profile and tracks their progress through the Balance, Yoga, Aerobic and Strength Training Programs.  As the player progresses, new exercises are “unlocked” to keep things fresh and exciting.  Maybe 30 min a day for video games is not such a bad idea after all!
  • Your cable service is a fitness center waiting to be used!  Did you know that if you have a DVR or on demand option with your cable service, you more than likely have at least 25 exercise classes that are available to watch and participate in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?  They are free and offer professional instruction on everything from aerobics, resistance training, yoga and pilates. TV might not be such a bad idea afterall?
  • Unorganized sports needs to make a comeback!  Too much structure has sapped most of the fun out of athletics these days.  Adolescent sports leagues have adopted a serious tone that has college scholarships in the back of every parents mind.  Assuming you live in a neighborhood with tons of children, why not set up a pick-up game league where the parents get the kids together, but they watch from afar.  What’s wrong with letting kids govern and officiate themselves?  If the “pick-up games” bridge the gap between getting home from school and dinner, kids will be looking at 1-3 hours of exercise on most days of the week. Even better, latch key kids have something to do to keep them busy and productive and off the couch and out of trouble.
  • Family bike rides on the weekend have long been a tradition for some families, but why not all?  Whether you live in an urban or suburban community, bicycling is a great way to explore your surroundings and spend time with your children.  It also provides parents a good venue to inquire about their week at school.  Fitness takes a backseat to fun and quality time spent together.  Shhhh…don’t tell the kids.
  • Each season should include a seasonal outdoors game.  Whether it is spring, summer, fall or winter, every season carries a game that is synonymous with the time of year.  Softball or wiffleball in the spring, volleyball and horseshoes in the summer, touch football in the fall and basketball in the winter.  A nice family or friendly rivalry will keep you coming back for more each time.  The stories will be told for years to come.

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