Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Children need at least an hour of moderate to strenuous physical activity every day to stay healthy, according to experts. But many kids just aren't getting that much exercise. And most groups are unanimous on the prime culprit: sedentary entertainment, meaning the temptations of the TV, computer, and video games.
So, your first step toward encouraging a healthy level of physical exercise should be to limit your children's TV and screen time. Beyond that, here are some tips from the experts on how to help your children (and yourself) stay active:
Make an exercise schedule. Exercise doesn't have to involve a rigid routine. But it's a good idea to schedule a regular time for exercise each day. You and your kids will be more likely to get up and get moving if you've set aside a specific time for physical activity. Many parents find that participation in after-school sports brings some needed relaxation and socialization time as well as fulfills the physical fitness requirement.
Support physical-education programs in the schools, which may be reduced or receive less emphasis in some school systems. Communicate to your child's teachers and administrators your belief that physical education (PE) is an important part of the curriculum.
Plan your vacations, weekends, and days off around fitness fun. Plan a bike ride, take an invigorating hike along nature trails, or pack a picnic lunch and head for the park for a family game of Frisbee.
Make use of community resources. When it comes to finding fitness opportunities, take advantage of what your community has to offer. Join the local YMCA or sign up for tennis
or other lessons through your Parks and Recreation Department. Look for water aerobics classes and golf lessons at local swimming pools and golf courses.
Get the whole neighborhood involved. Organize neighborhood fitness activities for children and their parents. Softball games, soccer matches, and jump-rope contests are fun for kids and adults.
Dance! Children of all ages love to dance. Crank up the music, show your kids the dances that were popular when you were a teen, and let them teach you their favorite dance moves.
Expose your child to a variety of physical fitness activities and sports. Your child will likely find the combination of activities or sports that are most enjoyable for him or her and will not become bored of one activity.
Let your kids take turns being the fitness director for your family. They'll have more fun when they're allowed to choose the activity, and they'll enjoy putting their parents and siblings through their paces.
Medically reviewed by Margaret Walsh, MD; American Board of Pediatrics
"Health and Parenting." WebMD.com. <http://www.webmd.com/parenting/default.htm>.
Steinberg, Laurence. The 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.
WebMD feature: "10 Commandments of Good Parenting."
WebMD University Course: "Let's Eat! Strategies for Raising Healthy Eaters."
WebMD feature: "Encouraging Exercise in Your Kids."
WebMD University Course: "Kids, Pounds and Playgrounds: Action Plan."