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Obesity among preschool children has fallen 43% in recent years. But that still means that 8% of kids aged four and under are seriously overweight. That’s one child in every preschool classroom of 12 children. Is that one child yours?

It might be if your child’s mother is inactive. A study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics looked at activity levels of over 550 mothers and their four-year-olds. The study found that children were about as active as their mothers were; their activity levels matched. But they also found that only about half the mothers were active for 30 minutes each day. Half of the mothers – and their children too – were less active than is healthy for them.

If you’re a mother, I know what you’re thinking: you’re thinking that you’re busy all day, every day. There’s no way you don’t get in half an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise each day. But stop and really count things up. How much of the time are you “busy” but not physically active? How often do you spend an entire half-hour walking, running, lifting weights, bicycling, or playing sports?

Too much of the time we are busy but not really active. We don’t have a moment to ourselves, it seems, but even so not any part of the day is physically strenuous.

The good news, as lead researcher Kathryn Hesket notes, is the “maternal physical activity levels can influence the activity level of their child.” An easy way to make your child more active is to be more active yourself.

How do you make time for your own activity when you’ve got a child or two to care for? Here are some ideas.

  1. Take your kids along. Run or take brisk walks (uphill as well as down) with the children in a stroller or bicycle with the children in a carrier or trailer.
  2. Exercise at home. Use an exercise video or in-home equipment to work out during naptime or when the children are playing on their own.
  3. Enroll in an exercise program that includes child care. Check out what’s offered by your local park district or Y.
  4. Trade off workout time with your best friend. Remember your “best friend” might be your husband. Leave him home with the kids in the evening while you head out for a run.
  5. Notice what objections are coming up in your mind as you read this short list. Realize that it’s not that you don’t have time to be active but that you’ve got a lot of excuses for staying inactive. Make a commitment to your health and the health of your children.

Like anything else, children copy what their parents do. Do you want your child to copy you when you’re sitting still, moving as little as possible, or do you want your child to copy you when you’re feeling strong and capable? Get up and get moving and your children will too.



© 2014, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Ask for Dr. Anderson’s new book, Parenting: A Field Guide, at your favorite bookstore.