With the obesity rate set to hit nearly 40% in the next 30 years, it’s clear that we as a nation need to do something – and fast. And as I’ve said here many times before – we need to start with our children if we have any hope of reversing this pandemic.

So here’s my Top 10 list of ways to get your kids into fitness.

1. Lead By Example – I know this seems obvious, but truthfully I’ve seen more hypocritical parents then I can count. If you want your children to eat healthy and be active then guess what? SHOW them what an active and healthy lifestyle is all about. Go for a walk, ride bikes and play family sports and games. Above all – eat appropriate foods. You can’t expect your children to make smart choices if you don’t.

2.  Find Activities They Enjoy – While some parents would love for their kids to play a team sport, not every child is interested or likes team activities. And that’s totally OK. Perhaps suggest martial arts or maybe an individual sport like swimming or track. While I don’t believe that sports should be forced on children, I do think they need to be pushed to get out of their comfort zone a bit (and OFF the couch and X BOX). In fact even playing an instrument, while not exactly physical, still has benefits and helps exercise your brain.

3. More Gym Classes – I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid I had gym almost every day of the week and in addition to recess, my teachers took the class outside to play a sport or be active on a regular basis. Now it’s pathetic! Activities and gym class have fallen by the wayside in many curriculums. My kids only have 1 day of gym on some weeks and after 6th grade, there’s no recess. I’m sorry but I believe that physical fitness is as important as learning history and a second language.  Basically the school system needs an overhaul big time. I say kids should have activity at least 3 days per school week – so if they’re not getting it in class we as parents need to fill in the gaps.

4. Education – This is something I’ve said before – We need to educate our children about health and fitness. We spend far too much time teaching kids about things that they’ll never use in real life yet when it comes to nutrition and understanding their bodies we fall WAY SHORT. We’ve got kids for nearly 14 years of their life while in school. I’d love to see a progressive educational program that starts in kindergarten and commences their senior year. Could you imagine how much things would change if kids actually knew about their bodies? WOW.

5. Incentives – I don’t believe in bribing kids, but I think offering incentives in the same way employers do for good performance may be the way to go. Perhaps you could extend bedtime on the weekend or allow friends to stay over. How about a trip to the movies if your child accrues a certain number of exercise ‘credits’ or skips dessert a few days per week. Worth a try, right?

6. More Meal Involvement – A lot of us are big on family dinners, but few of us are as big on making meal preparation also a family affair. Think about it – your kids just eat what you make and trust what the ingredients are. How about involving your kids in meal prep and cooking so that they actually SEE how food is made and what they’re actually eating? It’s a great way to take a daily task and turn into an opportunity for learning.

7. Explaining Consequences – I’m a fan of the #TRUTH anti-smoking campaigns that shows real people and the illnesses they’ve suffered. I know that sounds horrible but I believe that kids learn primarily from what they see first hand. As disturbing as the images may be, seeing people with obesity related illnesses and interviews with families who’ve lost a loved one to poor eating habits may be a great tool in the fight against obesity. Now is not the time to hide reality from our kids.  

8. Packing School Lunches – With Michelle Obama’s new school mandates taking effect, a lot of kids are complaining that they don’t like the new menu. I personally feel you should be packing your kids lunches and having them choose foods they like to eat. This again is another opportunity to get kids involved and teach them about food and healthy choices – which as we know is an important part of a fitness driven lifestyle.

9. Household Help – Sure it’s not exactly exercise, but I was cutting the lawn, vacuuming, washing the cars and cleaning bathrooms at age 12. There’s no doubt it burns calories in addition to creating a sense of common pride and respect where you live. I think in the last 20 years more and more children are just sitting around while mom and dad take care of everything. It’s time to get our kids involved in real life again and in the process increase their activity level.

10. Get Out Of The House! – When I was a kid I left my house at 8 am and came back at dinnertime. I was outside all dang day, playing with friends, walking to parks, riding my bike, climbing trees etc. Today? Kids are inside doing nothing, searching the web or playing video games. We need to restrict video game play to a minimum and get these kids outside and using their body PERIOD. And for all you that say you can’t take the X BOX away I say GROW UP and GET A SET! Who’s in charge anyway?

So there’s my list of 10 ways I think we can get kids into fitness and in better health overall. At the end of the day I believe much of how our kids eat and their activity level is related to mom and dad. They look to you for education, learning and most importantly you set the example for the lifestyle they lead.

What about YOUR kids? How do you teach them these vital life skills? Share away…