You know your kids should ideally be physically active for 60 minutes a day. But with school, homework, meals, extracurriculars and playdates, it can be hard to carve out the time. Need an incentive to rearrange your child's schedule? A recent Johns Hopkins study said that if all American 8- to 11-year-olds exercised for just 25 minutes three times a week, there would be 1.2 million fewer overweight or obese children, and it would prevent $62.3 billion in medical costs and lost wages in their futures.
With National Childhood Obesity Month in September, here are 25 ways you can help your kids get those 25 minutes of physical activity. Incorporate a few different ideas into each day, and your child will be up to 60 minutes in no time.
1. Turn chores into a dance party. Turn up the Taylor Swift and let your child clean her room while dancing around--she just may start looking forward to doing her chores. (This tip works for parents, too--grab your mop or broom and boogie down).
2. Walk the dog. Kids and dogs both need exercise, so having them both walk together gets everyone taken care of at once. It's a great source of daily physical activity.
3. Plant a garden. Pulling weeds, planting seeds and raking leaves are all good calorie burners, and, at the end kids, are rewarded with a beautiful result from all their hard work. Flowers are great, but planting fruits and veggies has the added bonus of creating a harvest of healthy food for the family.
4. Hit the gym. Instead of dropping your child off at the gym's child care, ask if he's old enough to use the equipment under your supervision. Seek help from a gym employee to make sure machines are adjusted to your child's height.
5. Create an "outdoor" toy box. Encourage physical activity by keeping a box of play equipment--hula hoops, baseball mitts and balls, jump ropes--where your child can easily access it and go outside for some play time.
6. Have a homework "recess." Even younger kids can come home each night with a stack of homework. To help blow off steam, once each assignment is completed, let your child go outside and move around for a bit. It can be as simple as climbing a tree, taking a quick bike ride or grabbing some equipment from the toy box in item #5.
7. Play a sport. Competitive or recreational, year-round or seasonal, individual or team--these days there's a sport out there for just about every kid. Your child may not end up in the pros, but she can reap the benefits the Angels player says he experienced while playing sports throughout his childhood.
8. Go exploring. On weekends, visit places such as museums, aquariums or botanical gardens that involve a lot of standing and walking to see the sights. Or go for a healthy hike.
9. Get a neighborhood pick-up game going. If you're fortunate enough to live in an area where there are a lot of families, organize a game of soccer or softball. No stakes or competitive pressure--just a chance for everybody to go out and have fun.
10. Walk, walk, walk--everywhere. Set the habit with your child of walking up and down stairs instead of taking the elevator, or parking at the outer reaches of the lot and walking to your destination. This kind of "baseline" activity is part of the B.A.S.I.C.S. fitness formula.
11. Create an indoor obstacle course. Ideal for the days when the weather is bad--push the furniture to the sides of the room, take all the cushions off the couches and chairs and pile them in creative ways so kids have to crawl over, around or between them. Give them a little extra exercise by making sure they help you clean up when you're done.
12. Perk up playdates. The next time your child's bestie comes over, hide the video game controllers and take the kids to the local park instead.
13. Enter a race. Sign up for run/walk and your child can do some daily jogs to train for the big race. Most races offer kids 1-mile distances; older kids who show an affinity can enter 5K races with some prep and planning. And they'll usually get a medal and T-shirt after crossing the finish line.
14. Strike a pose. Yoga is great for kids' minds as well as their bodies, increasing relaxation while also building strength and flexibility. Try a short session before school in the morning or at bedtime at night.
15. Make a game of it. Mini golf, laser tag, bowling, paint ball--all are fun activities that have the added bonus of keeping kids in motion. Look for online admission deals to save some money or get tickets for your child and his friends.
16. Give them a gadget. No, not the kind that keeps them staring at a screen all day. Pedometers are a fun way for kids to track their daily step count; fitness trackers geared toward kids can reward them for time spent on the move.
17. Make a movie, don't watch one. Harness your child's creative talents and let them make a film, which is easier to do than ever thanks to technology. Be sure there are plenty of action scenes!
18. Play "old school" games. Not all physical activity has to be high-tech. Teach your kids the games you used to play--kick the can, hide and seek, capture the flag, red rover.
19. Help others. There are many health benefits to volunteering, and many opportunities where kids can help out in an active way--beach or park cleanups, working at the local animal shelter, or even just helping an older neighbor with chores around the house.
20. Give them the right tools. Under proper supervision, have your child learn the basics of woodworking with simple projects such as birdhouses or small flower boxes. Some hardware stores carry kid-sized tools and project kits; others, such as Home Depot, offer building workshops for kids.
21. Bike to school. If you live close enough to your child's campus, make one day a week a bike-to-school day; she can pick up friends along the way and they can all ride in together.
22. Hit the trails. Many cities and parks have recreational trails that offer easy hikes at the perfect distance for little ones. Look for trails with nature centers, as they often have docents who give guided walking tours.
23. Master the martial arts. Karate, Taekwondo and other martial arts are great exercise, while teaching valuable skills such as discipline and self-defense.
24. Just keep swimming. Whether it's in your backyard, at the gym or your community clubhouse, a swimming pool is a great place for kids to be active--younger kids can splash around and older kids can master their strokes. And it's a sport they can participate in throughout their lives. Just make sure they know these swimming skills before diving in.
25. Be an active participant. Kids are more likely to be active if they have active parents. Jump into fitness with your child and you're sure to have fun while spending valuable time together.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.