Sneaky Fitness: Four Fun Ways to Get the Kids off the Couch

Submitted by on February 9, 2010 – 10:04 pm2 Comments

Find fun, foolproof ways to sneak fitness into your child's day.

Did you read our “Couch Potato” article? We had talked about studies showing that too much of any kind of sedentary activity can shorten your kid’s life – may this be watching TV or doting dolls. Now, we wouldn’t be ZisBoomBah if we’d leave you hanging without a real solution, would we? We called to the rescue no other than The New York Times best-selling author Missy Chase Lapine – the famous Sneaky Chef. Her new book, Sneaky Fitness: Fun, foolproof ways to slip fitness into your child’s everyday life, offers clever strategies to get lazy boys and girls moving more, burning more calories, building more muscle and generating more energy.

We caught up with Missy for some levelheaded advice from a busy mompreneur. “Sitting is bad,” she starts out, citing a study that shows that by virtue of sitting for more than an hour, “your body starts to shut down a bit.” Here, her four favorite Sneaky Fitness strategies from the book – they are pretty simple and are going to make a difference, she says:

  1. “Walk the Talk.” Set the rule that your children have to walk around the house while talking on the phone, texting or interacting with any other portable device. No laying down on the couch, no sitting. The impact:  Kids who are up on their feet while talking or texting burn double the calories compared to sitting. “That’s one of the sneaky solutions where a little bit adds up,” assures the Sneaky Chef.
  2. Replace your child’s computer chair with a balance ball, for an hour or so every day. Missy says, “It’s going to safe their back, it’s going to improve their posture, it’s going to build core strength.”
  3. (Missy loves this one.) Plant items around the TV room. “Just don’t say a word. Put out a mini trampoline, a balance ball or a hippity hop, even a hula hoop. And all of a sudden you’ll see your kids bouncing their way through American Idol. They can’t sit there and stare at a mini trampoline and not get on it. So instead of sitting on the couch they’re burning hundreds of calories more than sitting.”
  4. No eating in front of the TV or computer. The Sneaky Chef thinks it’s absolutely critical not to teach mindless eating. Research shows that children who do eat while watching TV eat substantially more calories. “It’s really important to teach kids mindful eating and to be in touch with their hunger,” she says.

Why parents struggle to get kids outside

Remember the old days, when running around outside was just what kids did? Kids not getting enough exercise isn’t a problem our own parents ever seemed to grapple with. So what changed? Missy brings up two likely reasons why parents today fail to get their kids moving in the first place.

“When we were growing up,” she reminds us, “we barely had any distractions. TV was really it. We didn’t have cell phones. We didn’t have texting. We didn’t have YouTube. We didn’t have fantastic computer games that are very engrossing.”

Secondly, our parents didn’t have the safety concerns. Safety is indeed a serious issue for parents today. Growing up, most of us had the freedom to go outside after school and play with friends, climb a tree, play tag and – remember? – we could ride our bikes alone! “Now everything has to be planned and supervised,” says Missy. “The only activity our kids get is when we take them to it or watch them doing it. You have to think twice. We have the fear of letting our kids out alone; and rightfully so.”

As a mompreneur working from home, Missy Chase Lapine understands first-hand why we let our kids watch too much TV – you can get some work done, and they are quiet. “We need to balance our own needs with our children’s needs,” she says. “And I’m not an extremist.” But instead of taking the easy way out and being an uninvolved parent, her Sneaky Fitness solutions are “the easier way out,” according to Missy. Your kids will have fun and might not even know you’re doing it. That’s sneaky.

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Categories: Guides, Healthy Meals and Activities for Kids


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