Young children and preteens gain 7 pounds of weight and 2K inches of height per year. There's significant increase in motor skills, strength, and stamina, so the child can begin to participate in competitive sports. This is a very important time in the development of a lifelong interest in physical activity.
Exercise with your child regularly and also on your own. Your child will follow your example, especially when he's young. The best way to share your exercise time is to select an activity that you can both enjoy together. Begin at the earliest age possible by pushing him for a good long walk in his stroller. As he begins to walk, let him hold onto the stroller as you walk together. When he has his balance, walk together with him. Keep emphasizing that exercise is for a lifetime.
Fortunately, most small children love to run around; you may be hard-pressed to keep up with your youngster after a while. However, there will come a time when television and the Internet become very attractive distractions for him. It's important that you continue to set an example by exercising yourself, but you also have to place limits on the amount of time your child spends in such sedentary inactivity. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one to two hours a day of quality programming.
You can really emphasize the importance of exercise to your child while getting more of it for yourself and your child. Here are a few tricks to sneak in more exercise:
1 Walk to shops and markets whenever possible. If it's too far to walk all the way, drive partway, park, and then walk to your destination.
1 When you go to a store, park at the farthest end of a parking lot from the door.
1 If you travel by public transportation, walk to and from the station if possible.
1 When you travel, look into walking tours available at your destination. (You can usually find books or Web sites with such information.) Take the tours, and you're sure to see much more.
1 Get pedometers for you and your child, and see who can record more steps in a day. Be sure to reward your child for winning. (See the section "A good pick for everyone: Walking 10,000 steps a day.")
In addition, you can really help your child by doing some or all of the following:
1 Make sure that his school has a daily break for physical education.
1 Introduce him to a variety of physical activities, and encourage him to join teams (see the later section "Competing against others").
1 Provide positive roles models for sports.
1 Introduce the idea of weight or strength training with light weights.
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