20 Ways to Raise a Healthier Child

The unhealthiest generation needs our help. More than 9 million overweight children in the United States are at risk for depression, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Not to mention heart disease and stroke as adults. Meanwhile, gym classes are fading. Less than one in 10 schools meets federal exercise requirements.

We can change this. The Men's Health FitSchools Initiative has started by supplying Gettys Middle School, in Easley, South Carolina, with the information and fitness equipment needed to overhaul their physical education program, and save their 1,300 students.

You can help by using our simple fit plan. It works for both children and adults. So your whole family will look and feel better-and your children will learn health and fitness lessons that last a lifetime.

Make Fitness a Top Priority

Many kids face the same workout saboteur as adults: Fitness is an afterthought. But creating a detailed fitness plan works for both adults and teens. When Ohio State University researchers helped high-school students plan to work out, 80 percent of the kids who had previously spent no time exercising outside of school became physically active in their free time. Merely committing change to paper can make it real. It's like a declaration of independence from fat. Sign on.

Set Aside 5 Minutes on Sunday

Jot down when you'll train this week, and include the exercises that will help you hit your goals for each session. For instance, you might aim to strengthen your upper body on Monday-use pushups and pullups, or rows and bench presses. Train your lower body with squats and running on Wednesday or Thursday. Then plan an active outing for the weekend. Multiply by 52 weeks, and it'll be a whole new health equation for you.

Bulk up the Specifics

As your exercise plan takes hold, include more details, such as sets and reps. Do the same for your kids. Script every minute, from water breaks to instruction time, says Brian Grasso, president of the International Youth Conditioning Association and FitSchools faculty member. It won't appear regimented to the kids, he says, but the structure is a stress reliever for adults. Plus, setting mileposts along the way makes it easier to reach the finish line.

Assemble an All-Star Team

Draft supportive teammates. "To stick with exercise long term, you need social support and you need to have fun," says Jim Liston, C.S.C.S., FitSchools faculty member. Band with friends to get in shape for a 10-K or a hut trip in the Rockies. For kids, start and end play with high-fives or a cheer. And encourage camaraderie by acknowledging each person's participation.

Schedule a Fitness Date

Sign up for tennis class, dance or yoga with your spouse. Children with active dads are 3 ? times more likely to exercise than those with inactive dads. But when both mom and dad are active, kids are a whopping 6 times more likely to exercise, according to a 2006 report published in the Journal of Sports Medicine.

Upgrade Your Health-Every Day

Nobody shapes kids' lives more than their families, says David Jack, life and sport director of Teamworks Centers, and FitSchools faculty member. A powerful way to lead is by making healthy choices every day. Think of it as 365 childhood obesity interventions in a year. If just 10 percent of the men reading this magazine follow through on this one step, that's more than a million interventions, which is more powerful than any change an organization can inspire.

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