How to Get Your Child Off the Couch

The childhood obesity epidemic continues to grow in this country year after year. There are several contributing factors, including the activity level of kids and the huge amounts of calorie laden foods they eat. Both of those things take a committed effort to change, but it’s well worth the better health and happier kids the effort produces. Here are a few ways that you can increase the activity level in your child in a real and long lasting way.


Find an activity you both like and do it together. A fun way to get your child off the couch is to find something you both like to do and then make a regular date to do it together. This could be a traditional sport, like tennis, baseball, basketball or soccer, or it could be something like jumping on the trampoline, bike riding, running or climbing on the jungle gym. Which activity you choose to do is much less important than helping your child get into the regular habit of moving. Once he makes the connection between exercise and fun, he’ll want to stay active. Doing things together also helps you get in the recommended amount of exercise. Plus it’s a great way to strengthen your relationship with your child. It’s a relaxed way to connect in a way that both of you can enjoy.

Limit television, video and computer time. Electronics can be the enemy of physical activity. Most children spend hours each day in front of a screen watching TV, playing video games or surfing the net. Not only does that keep them on the couch, it provides the perfect environment for mindless eating. This double whammy of inactivity and a high calorie diet can quickly add on pounds. Limit the amount of electronics time your child is allowed and offer him healthy alternatives to keep him entertained.

Help your child find a sport he enjoys. One of the best ways to keep your child active is to get her involved in a sport she enjoys. Enroll your child in a community center sports clinic or a neighborhood recreational program to give her the opportunity to try out a few different sports until she finds something she really enjoys. Not only will she get a great workout during practices and games, she’s more likely to participate in other casual activities, like joining in a pick-up game of basketball, playing catch with a friend or taking a bike ride with a parent.

Encourage friendships with other kids. The opportunity to play with other kids is a great motivator for your child to get off the couch. Help your child connect with neighborhood kids or classmates and suggest ways they can get together and have fun. Instead of spending the afternoon watching TV, your child can meet up with his buddies and go for a bike ride, play a game of soccer or build a fort in the backyard.

Model the importance of exercise. It’s not enough to tell your child how important regular exercise is to his health. It’s your job to show him that it’s important enough for you to do too. Find some activities that you genuinely enjoy doing and share your passion with your child. Talk with him about the benefits you get from playing tennis each week, taking a yoga class before work or training for a marathon on the weekends. Your child is much more likely to follow your lead when you follow your own good advice.

Be sensitive to your child’s self-image. If your child is overweight or out of shape, he’s probably resistant to starting an exercise routine. He may be embarrassed that he can’t keep up with the other kids or that he’s carrying around extra weight. Talk with your child about these issues and let him know that you’re on his side. Work with him to find activities that he can enjoy and feel good about doing. It may take a while for him to build up his confidence, but with persistence he’ll see his body grow stronger and leaner. Feeling better will lead to a positive domino effect, the more he does the more he’ll want to do. Remember, it’s essential that you not only address exercise, but also good nutrition, especially for overweight kids. Often, overeating is the result of emotional struggles the child is having. By addressing all the pieces of the puzzle, you’ll be able to help your child get to a weight he’s comfortable with.

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