Tips to Help Your Child Stay Healthy and Fit

American kids are making headlines. But, the news isn’t something to cheer about. Turns out they are becoming more overweight than ever before.

Today, about 16 percent of children ages 6 to 19 are overweight, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), and the number is steadily increasing.

The dangers of being overweight in childhood are the same as in adulthood: heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, the precursors to type 2 diabetes and even some forms of cancer.

Experts say children need at least one hour of physical activity each day. Is your child this active?

Parents play a big role in shaping children’s eating and physical activity habits. Helping your child maintain a healthy weight requires a long-term commitment with modifications the entire family should embrace.

Here are a few suggestions from the experts at NIDDK.

* Set a good example. Plan family activities, like hiking, biking, dancing or basketball. Include children in active chores like walking the dog, washing the car or mowing the lawn.

* Don’t forget the fun factor. It is likely that younger kids will respond better to exercise if it doesn’t feel like exercise. Try climbing a jungle gym, throwing a Frisbee or playing chase. For older children, encourage physical education classes or urge them to do activities that they like and will do every day.

* Cut down on screen time. Television viewing and other screen usage can hold your child’s interest for hours, which may discourage physical activity and increase calorie consumption. Reduce your child’s screen time by encouraging other behaviors such as playing outdoors or moving around during commercials. A few minutes of physical activity at a time can certainly add up.

Taking a pledge as a family to live a fit and healthy lifestyle is one of the best gifts you can provide your child.