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Exercise Your Duty To Keep Kids Fit

Do you know how much exercise your kids get? If you take their word for it, you may not have the full story.

Children overestimate their activity levels, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. In one study, 45 students ages 11 to 13 wore monitors for two four-day trials. Then researchers checked that data against kids' verbal reports. The result? Students said they did more moderate and vigorous activity than they really did.

Don't overestimate fitness

"Many parents overestimate the amount of exercise their kids are getting," says Janet Silverstein, M.D., a pediatrician who focuses on endocrinology, which includes the study of growth and metabolism. "It's important for parents to be aware of how much exercise their kids are getting so they can make adjustments."

Kids and TV

"There's an inverse link between the amount of time kids spend watching TV and the amount of time they exercise," says William H. Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., director of the division of nutrition and physical activity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lack of exercise and poor diet lead to overweight, obesity, diabetes and other chronic ailments.

What kids need

Kids need aerobic activity that involves continuous movement, says Howard Taras, M.D., professor of school health and community pediatrics at the University of California in San Diego. "Just because a child is busy doesn't mean he or she is getting enough aerobic exercise," says Dr. Taras. He suggests that you:

  • Keep kids away from TV or computer games until they have exercised; even after exercise, limit TV, video games and non-scholastic computer time to a total of one hour per day.

  • Set times for homework and reading, hanging out and physical activity.

  • Find well-run community fitness programs for your children.

  • Set an example by being physically active yourself.

The 'right' stuff

Children need aerobic as well as strength-building activities. Aerobic activities elevate both the heart rate and respiration for extended periods of time.  This develops cardiac and respiratory fitness. Many activities help children build muscles, speed, power, flexibility and teamwork skills, but they're not aerobic. Children, however, can often make such activities aerobic by doing them in a quick, rhythmic, constant manner.




Strength training










Field events, such as high jump