Get a move on: 9 tips to get children off the couch and into heart healthy habits

OAKLEY - In today's digital era it can seem like there are a million distractions that work against getting children off the couch and into healthy habits that can last a lifetime.

Dr. John S. Hutton, a pediatrician at Cincinnati's Children's Hospital and owner of the Blue Manatee in Oakley , with his wife Sandy, offers some simple solutions to combat a sedentary lifestyle.

1.     Be a role model.  "Kids are going to model what they see in their parents in watching TV and being on the iPads and things like that," Hutton said. Take your younger child with you as you play a sport, so they can mimic you as a way to instill healthy habits in your children, he adds.  "Kids are always watching what parents are doing and will want to model that."

2.     Go old school. "There are so many old fashioned things we used to all know how to do," Hutton said. "It's kind of a fun idea to get parents to dust off their memories to go out and play things they used to do as a kids." Hutton includes simple games, such as four square, hide-and-seek, or any game a parent can remember playing as a kid, before electronics came to dominate our down time.

3.     Keep it simple. "I think starting with little ones, there is good old fashioned walking in the yard," Hutton said. For older kids, activities such as going to the park and utilizing park equipment is a good idea, or even jumping rope. And, getting to the park can be a healthy activity in itself by learning to ride a bike to get there. "A lot of kids these days aren't learning to ride bikes."

4.    Get a pet. Dr. Hutton said dogs in particular are great ways to keep children, especially the older ones, active. "They love to run and play and kids can really follow through with them." As a  bonus, Hutton said, research shows young children exposed to dogs tends to prevent allergies.

5.    Turn the TV off. Pick a week to turn off the electronics, Dr. Hutton recommends. "In April there is turn off the TV week . It almost always just helps them be more active." He also suggests building healthy habits beyond the break.

6.    Let your kids get bored. Dr. Hutton said perhaps the easiest, and most practical way to get children moving is to take away all the devices they use for one afternoon, if not an entire week, and see what happens. "Almost letting your kids be a little bit bored can be helpful," Hutton said.  "Almost always they will think of something to do. They will come up something good. That's sort of what they are wired for if you give them the chance."

7.    Play active video games. Parents aren't going to be able to keep their kids away from the game console all the time, so Dr. Hutton suggests some very simple guidelines to video game play: Limit their time, keep snacks away from the TV and get them to play active games with others. "If they are going to play video games have them do something more sports related," Hutton said. All three major game consoles (the Wii, Xbox360, and Play Station 3) offer some sort of interactive component to game play. "It is certainly a step up from the more passive video games. Get them to do that with someone else to make it a little bit more competitive."

8.    Get involved. Beyond games and at home activities, Dr. Hutton recommends some of the suggestions from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The site suggests getting out and volunteering and working in the community for older children and finding an organized sport or activity to do three times a week for kids between ages five and 12.

9.   Do your homework. If keeping active play interesting becomes a challenge, or parents want to9 explore new ways to get moving with their children, Dr. Hutton said there are a lot of resources out there to come up with fresh ideas. As a bookstore owner for 12 years Hutton said a good place to begin is "The Dangerous Book for Boys" and "The Dangerous Book for Girls" that both suggest activities to get kids moving. The American Academy of Pediatrics   also offers literature and suggestions to get kids active at their site.


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