Instilling regular fitness habits in children can carry lifelong benefits. Two of the most important habits that can be imparted to children are maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly.

When good nutrition is combined with physical activity, your child is much more likely to maintain a healthy weight and reduce his risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and cancer. In the United States, approximately 17% of children and adolescents age 2-19 are obese. Eating healthy and exercising regularly also help build a strong immune system and promote the development of strong bones and muscles. Even though experts recommend no less than 60 minutes of daily exercise, the APA claims that only 30 percent of children age 6 to 17 get at least 20 minutes of exercise every day, which is pitiful! The dietary and exercise habits established in childhood often carry into adulthood. So now that you know the benefits of instilling good habits in your child, how does a parent successfully instill these habits in a world of fast food and video games?

Parents can certainly make meal time more fun by allowing the children to participate in planning the meal, from choosing the menu to the grocery shopping to preparing the food. Children are more likely to eat food they have been allowed to help choose and prepare. Planting a small garden in the backyard is another activity that children often enjoy. Picking vegetables from their garden usually gets children excited about trying what they have grown. Having a few healthy choices at meal time is another way to encourage your child to eat well. Try to include familiar foods as well as new ones for them to try.

Regular exercise can be another parental challenge. Encourage your child to enjoy active play, such as riding bikes, running, basketball, and other sports. Be an example and make sure your children see you regularly engaging in fitness activities. Try to schedule regular family activities, like nature walks, riding bikes or swimming at a local community pool. This provides a great opportunity to have quality time as a family while obtaining the benefits of exercise. Joining the local gym is another great way to spend time together while being active.

It is important to remember that children are watching their parents. They are most likely to stick to a healthy diet and exercise regularly if they see their parents doing the same.