How does physical activity help my child?
Like adults, children should be physically active most, if not all, days of the week. Experts suggest at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity daily for most children. Walking fast, bicycling, jumping rope, and playing basketball, soccer, or hopscotch are all good ways for children to be active. Parents play a big role in helping kids to get up and get moving.
How can I help my child be more active?
- Be a role model for your children. If they see you being physically active and having fun, they are more likely to be active and stay active.
- Involve the whole family in activities like hiking, biking, dancing, or playing basketball.
- Focus on fun. You can do a lot of walking during trips to the zoo or park.
- Include children in family activities like walking the dog, washing the car, or mowing the lawn.
- Sign your children up for after-school programs or lessons in a sport they enjoy.
- Team up with your children to play sports or dance video games that get everyone moving.
Reduce inactive screen time
Sitting while using computers, hand-held devices, or TVs for hours at a time may reduce your child's active playtime. Limit your child's screen time watching TV, playing inactive computer and video games, or listening to music on hand-held devices while sitting down. Tips to reduce your child's screen time include these:
- Do not use screen time as a way to reward your child.
- Set up a family game night and turn off all the screens in your home.
- Eat meals together as a family. Do not eat in front of a screen.
- Limit TV time and remove TVs from your child's bedroom.
What should I do if my child is overweight or obese?
Children who are overweight are more likely to become adults who are overweight. These children may develop type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems. Weight problems can also lead to stress, sadness, and low self-esteem in children. Because children grow at different rates at different times, it is not always easy to tell if a child is overweight. For example, it is normal for boys to have a growth spurt in weight and catch up in height later. Ask your health care provider to measure your children to tell you if they are in a healthy range for their age and gender. If your provider tells you that your child is overweight, you can help.
How can I help my overweight child?
- Do not put your child on a diet to lose weight unless your health care provider tells you to.
- Avoid putting severe limits on what your child eats. Doing so may interfere with her or his growth.
- Accept and love your child at any weight. Doing so will boost self-esteem.
- Involve the whole family in healthy eating and physical activity habits.
- Help your child find ways other than food to handle setbacks or mark successes.
- Talk with your health care provider if you are concerned about your child's eating habits or weight.
Remember, you play the biggest role in your children's lives. You can help your children learn healthy eating and physical activity habits to follow for the rest of their lives.
Excerpted from Helping Your Child: Tips for Parents, which is part of the Healthy Eating & Physical Activity Across Your Lifespan Series from the Weight-control Information Network (WIN). The series offers health tips for readers at various life stages, including adulthood, pregnancy, parenthood, and later life. The entire series is also available in Spanish. To download and share this and other WIN materials, visit www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-communication-programs/win/Pages/community-groups-organizations.aspx
Find Out More
- School Health: medlineplus.gov/schoolhealth.html
- Healthy Back to School Habits: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/downloads/tip-back-to-school.pdf
- Child Nutrition: https://medlineplus.gov/childnutrition.html
- Secrets to Making School Lunches Kids Won't Want to Trade: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/news-events/matte14.htm
- Secrets to Making Healthy and Fun School Lunches: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/downloads/tip-school-lunches.pdf