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Kids not exercising? Here's how to get them moving

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There are many reasons why kids may not play team sports: They lack the interest, skills and even resources – which include transportation, money for fees and equipment or uniforms.  

Unfortunately, many schools do not provide at least 60 minutes of physical activity for kids each day.  Parents know their kids need to be more physically active – the question is how to get their child off the couch and moving.

Innovative Programs in Schools
Believe it or not, there are ways to get physical activity into the classroom – if it cannot be done in a gymnasium.  The American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance is the partner for the Let’s Move in Schools initiative. According to Fran Zavacky, senior program manager, NASPE/CDC Cooperative Agreement Project, there are many schools making a difference and inspiring kids to have a love for physical fitness.

“Whether rural or urban, make physical activities relevant to kids’ lives and encourages educators to ‘think outside of the box’.  Sometimes it means going outside – hiking or skiing,” Zavacky suggested.  

“In a class of 30 kids, you may have 30 different ability levels, which can make it frustrating.  With teens, it’s about self-efficacy, there’s too much pressure on them to be athletic.”

She described the enthusiasm of some of her students after trying circuit training: “They can see definition in their muscles and feel less winded running up the stairs.”

Jump Rope for Heart
Jumping rope is certainly for kids of all ages.  Many schools participate in the American Heart Association’s Jump Rope for Heart™ program, which helps kids learn about the importance of physical activity for their hearts and their health.  The event coincides with heart health awareness in February. Have you ever seen former U.S. Olympian Buddy Lee jump rope?  His YouTube videos will get your heart rate up just by watching. 

'Run Forest, Run'
Since 1986, the Road Runners Club of America has funded the Kids Run the Nation® turnkey fitness program to help children meet the USDA’s fitness goals.  The ING Community Fund has awarded 50 schools from 24 states grants of up to $2500 for school based running programs to help in the battle against obesity.  

Just Dance
Zumba™ has been a growing fitness phenomenon.  It is a dynamic way of “sneaking” exercise into dance. Zumba™ CEO Alberto Perlman said there are thousands of Zumbatomic™ classes being taught in schools throughout the country.  Let’s face it, when you hear music with a great beat, it is easy to want to move.

Hip-Hop Revolution
Geo Hubela, owner of the Icon Dance Complex in Englishtown, N.J., has been a leader in the current hip-hop movement. When Hubela was growing up, it was “girlie” if boys danced.  He hoped when he opened his studio in 2006, they could attract boys.  They top the list of dance schools with large numbers of male students.

“The biggest challenge has often come from dads, who do not want their sons to dance – until they see them dance and realize how much their sons love dancing… in addition to other sports that many of them play,” Hubela said.  

With the Internet, kids just need a computer and access to the web, in order to watch dance videos – online or on YouTube.  Hubela noted that even the gaming industry has recognized the popularity of dance – games are no longer just sports for Wii or XBox, but dance games, with motion sensors that get kids and their parents off the sofa and into the game.

One nice thing to consider – most of these options discussed really don’t cost much or require a lot of space.  However, they can be done together as a family.  You don’t have to excel at it the first time, but by continuing to challenge yourself, you will improve.  

Felicia D. Stoler, DCN, MS, RD, FACSM is a doctorally trained registered dietitian, exercise physiologist, TV personality and expert consultant in disease prevention, wellness and healthy living. She is the author of "Living Skinny in Fat Genes: The Healthy Way to Lose Weight and Feel Great." She hosted TLC's ground-breaking series "Honey We're Killing the Kids!" Become a fan of Felicia on Facebook, follow her on Twitter or visit her website FeliciaStoler.com