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Families Should Get Fit Together

Experts urge 30 minutes of exercise a day

SATURDAY, Sept. 4, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- American families need to commit to at least 30 minutes of sustained physical activity every day, says the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).

That call for exercise action is a response to government statistics that show a tripling of childhood and adolescent obesity rates in the past 20 years. Nearly one in five American youth are clinically overweight and part of the problem is lack of physical activity.

"Children typically are active in short bursts. To achieve a good fitness level, they need to keep their heart rates up for at least 30 minutes at a time," pediatric therapist and APTA member Heidi Jo Hetland said in prepared statement.

One solution is to make daily exercise a family affair. Brisk walks, bicycling and running are among the many family activities that can help children raise their heart rates.

Hetland said parents need to act as fitness role models for their children.

"It's much easier for children to stay healthy and adopt good habits if they see their parents making exercise a priority," she said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers the following tips for family fitness:

  • Put a two-hour limit on children's sedentary activities such as television, video games and computer time. Parents should also limit their own time in front of the television to set a good example for their children.
  • While watching television, parents and children should exercise, such as doing sit-ups, push-ups or running in place. Don't snack or eat meals while watching TV.
  • Plan exercise-focused weekend family activities such as swimming, bicycling, tennis, bowling or mini-golf.
  • Help your children plan group activities such as skating or hiking with their friends.
  • On rainy or bitterly cold days, encourage your children to play active indoor games such as jumping jacks or "Simon says." Mall walking is another option.
  • Your family doesn't need to join a health club or buy fancy exercise equipment. Walking is inexpensive and easy. You can even design a backyard obstacle course.
  • Give your children positive feedback about their healthy lifestyle changes.
  • Be your child's "exercise buddy." Set goals together for increasing physical activity and plan daily walks or bike rides.
  • Encourage your children to try individual sports such as tennis and swimming. These kinds of activities are the basis of lifelong fitness habits.

More information

The American Physical Therapy Association offers family fitness tips.

SOURCE: American Physical Therapy Association, news release, August 2004
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