Back to School: The best ways to get children active and moving

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Sixty minutes a day--that's the recommendation for exercise for all children 18 and under.

Whether they're playing soccer or Hillbilly Golf or tossing a football, children need to move for one hour a day. "That includes what's called moderate to vigorous activity, which is activity to get your heart beating faster," advises Nikki Boyd, Kosair Children's Hospital's Health & Wellness Coordinator

Boyd's work is focused on helping families and children lead healthy lives. "Mom and dad have a very important role," she says.  "We want them to model good fitness habits.  Make it fun, initiate the process, and show them some different activities they might not be used to."

The 60 minutes of exercise can be broken up into six, ten-minute blocks or two, half-hour segments.  Boyd says families should do whatever works with their schedule.  

Some children, especially those just starting an exercise routine, can't handle long periods of activity at once.  Boyd says they should start slow.  She suggests walking the dog or starting a walking club with friends in the neighborhood.

Boyd also encourages families to use incentives and set goals.  For example, give a reward when a child is active for three days in a row.  Or, tell a child he can play a game on the iPad or XBox in exchange for being physically active.

An organized sport is a great way to work in physical activity, but it's not the only way.  Experts say you should help your child find an activity he loves, and he'll be more likely to stick to it. Boyd says the key is making activity routine and making it fun.  It feels less like exercise when children are socializing at the same time. "A lot of kids like to do things together," Boyd says, "If they can get a group of friends together and do the activity together, that's very helpful."

Finally, make healthy eating an drinking plenty of water part of the routine.  These will make your children feel better and give them the fuel they need to be physically active.

"Five fruits and veggies a day, two hours a less of screen time, one hour of physical activity, and zero sugary drinks.  That's a good rule to live by," Boyd says.

Many community centers, YMCAs and other gyms offer programs for people who want to make a lifestyle change--individually or as a family. Boyd says by teaching and encouraging a healthy lifestyle, you are giving your children a gift that will benefit them for decades to come.

Families of overweight children should consult a doctor before beginning exercise to be sure a medical issue is not causing weight gain.

Online resources to get your family moving

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