Babies and toddlers spend an awful lot of time strapped into car seats or plopped in front of the TV. Not only does this prevent them from practicing their emerging motor skills and strengthening their heart, lungs, and muscles, but it can also set them up for a sedentary lifestyle, and even obesity, as adults. A good habit of physical activity, on the other hand, will last a lifetime, says Adelphi University professor Stephen Virgilio, author of Active Start for Healthy Kids (Human Kinetics Publishers). “And it’s never too early to start,” he says.
How, you may wonder, can you help your child get the recommended one-plus hours of daily physical activity when you can’t even make it to the gym? The answer, says Virgilio, is to rethink your idea of exercise. “A workout doesn’t have to mean running laps or lifting weights, which requires you to set aside blocks of time,” he says. “Think of exercise as leading an active lifestyle, which you can do with your kids, and you’ll be able to fit in more than you think.”
As a bonus, exercise with family does double duty as quality time — no small consideration given our jam-packed schedules. Let these creative ideas help you turn every day into an opportunity to get fit — and have fun — together.
Active Ideas 1-5
1. Go for pre- or post-dinner walks
Whether you head into town or just cruise the neighborhood, building a walk into your daily schedule ensures that it won’t get put off. Brookline, Massachusetts, master Pilates instructor Lisa Johnson and her husband take evening walks with 3-year-old Alex, who alternates time in and out of the stroller. To make walking more enticing, Johnson makes a sport of it. “At one house we look for a cat sitting in the window, at another we run up and down a short flight of stairs,” she says.