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As school comes to an end, many children are ditching their books and reaching for the TV and game controllers. But this lack of physical activity puts kids at a greater risk for obesity.

According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 31.8 percent of children and adolescents – nearly one-third of our nation’s youth – are overweight or obese, meaning they are more likely to develop pre-diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

So what’s a parent or care-giver to do?

Try getting kids out of the house and engaging in physical activity for at least an hour a day. Physicians also recommend that three days a week, children should engage in muscle strengthening activities like climbing on a jungle gym, and bone-strengthening activities such as jumping rope.

We’re all more likely to do something we like, so discover physical activity the whole family can enjoy.

  • Cool down by the water. Whether you decide to take your family to the beach, pool or the nearest public dock, swimming is a great way to spend a hot afternoon and is also great exercise.
  • Take a hike. Travel to the nearest nature trail for fun and adventure! Hiking is a good way to get your child’s legs moving and also to teach them more about nature. Have a crafter in the family? As you walk, gather stones, leaves, pinecones and other natural treasures for an art project, decorative display, even jewelry.
  • Try a new backyard competition. Take up badminton, horseshoes, even Kick The Can (OK, we confess. We’re showing our age here.) Compete with each other for the top prize each week – or each night after dinner, for that matter.
  • Investigate active summer camps. Do your research to find an affordable summer camp that places a high importance on exercise. Summer camps are a great place for kids to socialize with children their age and maybe pick up a new hobby or sport.
  • Try backyard camping. The backyard can hold wonderful adventures for a young child. Experience the night sky from a familiar place. Put up a tent, fire up the flashlight and play hide and seek or tag.

By including physical activity and movement in your summer plans, you can keep the couch empty, the TV off and the kids healthy.

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