When I was growing up, it was pretty hard to keep us kids from moving around. Even in the throes of exhaustion, my friends and I took advantage of every waking moment to get outside and run until we were literally exhausted to the point of collapsing.

Times Have Changed

Today, kids still need to be active and have fun, but an increasing number of children are instead choosing to stay indoors and watch TV or play on the computer. The allure of these indoor activities is understandable, and in many ways, they have become an integral part of growing up — but at what cost to a child's health and development?

While the debate over computers and TV continues to rage on, health experts and parents alike can agree that exercise and being physically fit are good things.

Mental Benefits of Being Active

In addition to the number of positive health consequences that stem from being active, researchers now believe that physical fitness may be linked to brain development in 9- and 10-year-old children. In the study in question, children who were more fit tended to have a bigger hippocampus, which is responsible for learning, and performed better on memory tests than their peers who were not as fit. Previous research in adults as well as animal models have shown that exercise can increase the size of the hippocampus and lead to improvements in spatial reasoning and cognitive performance.

How to Encourage Your Kids

The current findings, published in the journal BRAIN, add to the long list of health benefits of exercise and being physically fit. With this in mind, parents should encourage their kids to be active.

Not only will it help them to lead healthier lives, but it can potentially help strengthen their social circles while also increasing their self-esteem and energy levels while making them feel better overall.

If you are unsure how to go about doing this, here are some helpful suggestions:

1. Establish Precedents

Start early in creating an active lifestyle for your children. The older kids get, the more set in their ways they become and are less likely to embrace your suggestions.

2. Encourage Your Kids to Go Outside

It is easy enough to put on the TV and let kids zone out, but just a little nudge can get kids out the door, and then they will usually find a way to have fun.

3. Join in the Fun

If a parent initiates activities, children are usually bound to follow. This will enable a parent to get some exercise, as well, while spending important bonding moments with their kids.

4. Be a Four-Season Player

Don't let cloudy skies or rain and snow (within reason) stop your kids from enjoying themselves. Just make sure to dress them appropriately and have some fun.

5. Set Sedentary Limits

If your child has been sitting on the couch for what you consider to be too long, tell them to get up and get going. As a parent, you have some level of say in how sedentary or active they can be.

6. Eat Healthy Foods

A junk food diet has an amazing ability to sap the energy out of children. Choose healthy foods and snacks that are nutritious and will give kids plenty of energy to be active.

If you have questions or concerns about your child's level of activity, consult with your pediatrician. For more information about the importance of exercise in a child's life, visit the website for Kid's Health.

Further Reading