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5 Ways To Get Your Junior Couch Potato Moving

Our kids are getting too much screen time and not enough play time. Help your kids to get moving so they can become fit and stay healthy. 

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These days, when kids say they want to play hockey or basketball, they’re more likely to be referring to video games than to a visit to the rink or court.

Canadian children spend about five to seven hours in front of a computer or TV each day, notes a 2008 report by Active Healthy Kids Canada. The Toronto-based non-profit group adds that 90% of children fail to achieve 90 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day, as recommended by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

It’s no surprise then, says Active Healthy Kids Canada, that 26% of Canadian youth-including children as young as three-are now overweight or obese.

Here are some ideas to get your kids away from the screen, off the couch, and into some active habits.

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Challenge Them

Turn activities into fun contests. Have kids (or everyone in the family) wear a pedometer to see how many steps they take daily. Children should take about 11,000-13,000 steps per day. You can come up with creative competitions around everything from jumping rope to taking laps around the block on a bike.

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Eliminate Shortcuts

There are plenty of ways to incorporate fitness into routine activities. Instead of driving the kids to school, start a “walking school bus,” where children all along the route pick each other up on the way and walk to school in packs.  At the mall, take the stairs instead of the escalator, or park in the farthest spot from the mall entrance. “If you celebrate the fact that you got the closest spot, you’re sending a message to kids that we should do the least amount of physical activity possible,” says Elio Antunes, COO and VP, Partnerships of Toronto-based ParticipACTION.

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Set an Example

That doesn’t just mean going to the gym or playing a sport yourself, but going outside to play with your kids instead of simply ordering them out. “If parents are less active, so are the kids-you have to be a role model,” says Brittany Decker, program director of Silken’s ActiveKids Movement in Victoria, B.C.

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Photo: Shutterstock

Use the Buddy System

If your child is reluctant to take part in an organized activity, check what their friends are doing, and encourage your child to get involved, too. If kids go to swimming, karate or dance together, they don’t feel alone, can support each other, and exert positive peer pressure to keep at it.

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Photo: Thinkstock

Offer Choice Within Structure

If you ask children if they want to go out to play or to the park, what happens if they say no? A better tactic is to make the general activity a given but leave the specifics to your kids, says Michelle Brownrigg, CEO of Active Healthy Kids Canada. She compares it to putting three vegetables on their plate for dinner; you hope they at least eat one. They can play ball at the park, play on the equipment, or invent any game they want; you don’t have to forbid what they should be doing, but you do need to give them the opportunities to be active.