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Encourage Physical Activity: What Parents Can Do

Encouraging more physical activity is a critical step in preventing childhood obesity. But we can’t expect our kids to stay active if we’re watching from the couch! Exercise is most effective, and more fun, when it’s done as a group. In addition to promoting your child’s health and learning, you’ll feel better, too!

The following are some suggestions to increase your family’s physical activity:

Make exercise a family habit:

  • Take a family walk around the block each night after dinner.
  • Schedule a weekly game of touch football in the park.
  • Walk instead of driving when you can.
  • Walk or bike with your child to school.
  • Park as far away from entrances as possible.
  • Bypass elevators and escalators; use the stairs instead.
  • Play upbeat music and dance your way through family chore times.

Play together! Instead of going to a movie or restaurant for your next family outing, plan something active:

  • Discover free and low-cost physical activity options near your home (parks, bike paths, hiking trails, tennis courts or community swimming pools).
  • Walk, jog or run your way through a family treasure hunt. Try letterboxing or geocaching to make hikes more interesting for small children.
  • Plan active vacations (hiking, bike rides, skiing).
  • Spend an afternoon at the local playground or the zoo.
  • Play a round of miniature golf together.

Set family fitness goals:

  • Post goals on the refrigerator, along with a way to track everyone’s progress. Cheer each other on as goals are achieved!
  • Train together for a charity walk or run.
  • Get pedometers and have a contest to see who takes the most steps in a given week.

Celebrate fitness:

  • Host a sports-themed birthday party where you play traditional games like basketball, softball and badminton.
  • Give physical activity-oriented gifts.

Exchange “screen time” for active time:

  • Limit sedentary “screen time” (computer, video games, TV) to no more than 2 hours per day.
  • Encourage your children to sign up for some form of physical activity. Everyone can find something they enjoy. Team sports, individual sports (swimming, tennis), dance, or martial arts are all good options.
  • Support your child by making a commitment to practices and showing up for games or performances. You can even get involved by signing up for an adult class or team, and practice together!

For more information and ideas:

Choosemyplate.gov, Physical Activity:

Let’s Move, Get Active:

Outdoors Alliance for Kids, Resources for Getting Outdoors:

National Wildlife Federation, Get Outside:

Action for Healthy Kids, Family Fitness Time:

Together Counts At Home, Tips and Tools: