January 18, 2010 / 11:06 AM / 9 years ago

Child fitness: Sneaky strategies aim to get kids moving

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) Is your rug rat becoming a sofa spud?

Children exercise during a weight-losing summer camp in Shenyang, Liaoning province, August 3, 2009. REUTERS/Sheng Li

To get that texting, tweeting, gaming child up and exercising, a new book suggests parents try sneaking fitness into the day-to-day routine.

“A sneaky fit kid can burn an extra 400 calories per day,” said Missy Chase Lapine, who co-authored “Sneaky Fitness: Fun, Foolproof Ways to Slip Fitness into Your Child’s Everyday Life.” with personal trainer Larysa DiDio.

“This whole (childhood) obesity epidemic can be obliterated by the sneaky fitness method,” she added.

Her book contains over 100 toddler-to-tween-targeted strategies, games and tips for exercising children. “Sneaky Fitness” is the fourth book in a series that sets forth what Lapine labels the sneaky lifestyle.

The best-selling “Sneaky Chef” cookbooks aimed to sneak good food into kids’ diets with recipes such as spinach-laced brownies and cookies with wheat germ folded in.

“Eating healthy is only half the battle. You really have to move more. Our kids today are really living a very sedentary lifestyle,” she said.

According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some 17 percent of children are obese, three times as many as 30 years ago.

“When we were growing up we could go out and play tag or climb a tree unsupervised,” Lapine said. “Today everything has to be planned. These days play happens in the den.”

Lapine, who has a degree in psychology, said motivating kids is an important part of the sneaky philosophy.

In other words, it’s fun.

An activity dubbed “Slip and Slide” has kids sliding across the floor.

“You just say, ‘Go make your socks as dirty as possible’ and put on some fun music, like the twist,” she said. “Now they’ve skated and twisted all over the floor, they’ve helped mommy clean up, and they burned three times the calories as they would watching TV.”

Similarly, “Dig to China” has kids digging in sand, filling up a pail and, Lapine says, burning 68 calories in 30 minutes.

Sneaky strategies include planting a mini trampoline or hula hoop in the TV room.

“They naturally gravitate to these items,” Lapine explained. “All of a sudden they’re watching “Hannah Montana” or “American Idol” and they can’t sit still.”

Or, if they must play that computer game, Lapine says, have them do it while sitting on a stability ball.

Jessica Matthews, spokesperson for the American Council of Exercise, likes the sneaky philosophy.

“Adults hop on a treadmill for 40 or 60 minutes, but for a child that’s not enjoyable,” said Matthews, a former K-12 physical education teacher. “But fold in exercise with fun activities and games throughout the day and children will respond.”

She’s particularly fond of the sneaky strategy of leaving a stopwatch around.

“Give a child a stopwatch and Boy! You’d be surprised how fast they can move.”

Matthews’ one qualm is that so many of the activities require adult supervision.

“For a lot of them a parent would need to be present,” she said.

But if, despite all this stimulation, your child still resists the sneaky way of life, there remains Fitness Tip 40, which promises to boost cardio-vascular endurance, co-ordination and mood. Best of all, compliance is virtually certain.

Tip 40 suggests: “Get them the dog they’ve always wanted.”

Reporting by Dorene Internicola; Editing by Patricia Reaney

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