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How can I get my child to be more active?

Never underestimate the power of parental example. For instance, if you consider Saturday afternoon your ticket to remote-control land, where you lounge on the couch in front of the TV, chances are your child does, too. Unfortunately, the toll may be great: In the U.S., childhood obesity and early onset of chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, are at an all-time high. Why not spare your kids by setting a good example yourself? Here’s how:

  • Accentuate the positive. Avoid competition, discipline and embarrassment—big exercise turnoffs. Instead, promote physical activity as a chance for family fun. Always praise your child for trying; never criticize poor performance.
  • Be spontaneous. Suggest a bike ride, a Frisbee toss or a jump-rope session. Head to the park and shoot some baskets or help your child climb the monkey bars. Every so often, introduce a new activity, such as ice skating, tumbling or hiking.
  • Be sneaky. Add more activity to the family’s everyday routine. Make it a habit to walk to the store whenever possible. At the mall, choose the farthest parking spot. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Plan events that involve walking, such as a trip to the zoo or the boardwalk. In short, make physical movement a matter of course, not a special event.
  • Play it safe. Little muscles may not necessarily be limber, so have your children warm up and cool down before and after they exercise.