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Keeping Children Fit…Make it Fun!

separator Approximately 4.7 million children and adolescents (11%) in the United States are considered seriously overweight according to the Centers for Disease Control. Since 1970, the percent of youth ages 6-17 has doubled.

Today’s generation of children is taxed with more schoolwork, more after school activities and responsibilities. They are a generation of computers, TV and video games. Although these things have benefits and can help for a more well rounded child, they can also contribute to a more sedentary lifestyle.

Bridget Lackey, a licensed nutritionist and instructor for Humility of Mary Health Partners Camp Slimdown for overweight children and member of the Project Fit America team notes that statistics from February of 2001 show that:

  • 27% of children are overweight
  • 12% are considered obese (double the rate seen in 1960)
  • 26% of children watch 4 hours or more of TV per day (43% among minority children)

Children should be out playing and having fun. This is the time during their development that they learn and develop such important skills as walking, skipping, running, jumping, catching. While they may not utilize these specific skills daily unless they do participate in sports, they are still valuable tools needed throughout life. These are the skills that help them to develop physically.

Children also need to realize that activity can be fun! It is our challenge as parents, teachers, coaches and health care professionals to find a way to make it fun and challenging. Our goal is to get the child excited about fitness so that it carries over into a health adult life.

Fitness needs to be gradual. You are looking for activities that will increase the child’s heart rate, gain strength without injury, learn body control and promote development. Fitness should be challenging, but also have it’s rewards. It should never be painful. Proper technique should always be used…it is not how fast or how many exercises that are performed, but how many correct ones. Improper technique, going too fast can result in injury.

If your child is a “couch potato”…take note. Let your son/daughter know that they do not have to miss their favorite TV shows to exercise…ENJOY BOTH!

Exercise during the commercials. The average half-hour TV show has about 4 commercial breaks. Those 4 breaks can result in almost 8 minutes of exercise and they can still watch their favorite show. 

Mom and dad, you can join in with the exercises and make it a family thing. 

Try this simple routine. While your favorite TV show is on, sit and watch it. Once the commercials come on, get up and perform:

  • Commercial 1 – high knee marching in place 
  • Commercial 2 – do sit-ups 
  • Commercial 3 – jog in place
  • Commercial 4 – wall push ups or jumping jacks

Track how well you do by counting the number you are able to perform CORRECTLY during each commercial. You should improve each week. After one week, try and increase to two shows each night. Vary the exercises you do in front of the TV – the list is endless.

It is estimated that we spend more then 3 hours each day watching TV…just think if you did more then SIT and watch! 

Before you start an exercise program, please remember that you need to choose exercises that are appropriate for your child, their age, ability, etc. You must also recognize whether the area that you are going to watch TV and exercise is big enough to allow exercise safely. Adults, remember any existing medical conditions before you start exercises as well.

Stay fit and have fun!

Hollie Kozak is a certified/licensed athletic trainer and the sports medicine coordinator for an area sports medicine program. She can be reached at

Hollie Kozak, ATC/L  - Humility of Mary Health Partners, July 2003
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