Build exercise into your daily routine

Even if you go to the gym most mornings, experts say the real key is to make your entire lifestyle more active by building movement into your day. It is a habit best started as early as possible.

Lisa Witherspoon, co-director of the Active Gaming Research Laboratories in the US, specialises in getting kids moving.

Witherspoon's research centres on finding ways to use technology to increase physical activity.

What happens, physically, to inactive people?

The most obvious result is obesity or weight gain. Inactivity also affects other factors related to heart disease such as blood pressure, cholesterol, circulation, heart rate and diabetes. Bones lose density, putting you at risk of fractures and osteoporosis. Muscle strength declines, limiting you physically so you're not able to do as much, even just around the house. Balance and co-ordination decline as muscle strength declines.

Why are some kids running around all the time and others seem glued to the TV?

It has a great deal to do with parents and other role models at home. If the parents aren't active, chances are the kids won't be active. Many schools are eliminating or reducing physical education and recess time.

Do parents only need to worry about activity if their child is overweight or obese?

Kids who are not active are at a major disadvantage for their health. This isn't about being fat or skinny. We want them healthy so their bones and their hearts, their muscles and their lungs are strong. Active people live longer, have fewer health problems, less pain and live independently longer.

Tell us about your research.

I research different active gaming or "exergaming" products. I'm also working with schools to start a pilot program to increase physical activity through the day. Students will be instructed to get up and move for five to 10 minutes each hour, then continue the class again.

What is "active gaming"?

Some examples are Dance Dance Revolution, Nintendo Wii, Xbox Kinect, Gamercize Steppers, Lightspace, HOPSports. People have to use their bodies to play the game.

How much daily activity is enough?

Sixty minutes of moderate to vigorous activity for school-aged children. Every day. Very few are achieving this. Adults need about 150 minutes per week, minimum.

How do you fulfil that requirement?

We are just telling families to get up and move, walk in the neighbourhood, do active video games, swimming, ride bikes, play catch, frisbee. Kids need parents involved. Sometimes you have to create games, get outside and play.

How do you do this without your family staging a revolt? Is there a wrong way to do it?

Yes. Making kids run laps and do things that aren't fun, things that just hurt or are boring will keep kids from wanting to be active.

Parents should ask the kids, "What would you like to do?" Parents should also monitor screen time.

How much sedentary screen time should be allowed?

No more than two hours of recreational screen time a day. That doesn't include time spent on homework or school-related projects. I'm talking about limiting TV viewing, surfing the web, video and computer games, social media.

TIPS TO GET GOING

■ Park at the back of the car park and walk the rest of the way.

■ Take the stairs.

■ "Walk to talk" to your friends, colleagues or business associates. Avoid phoning or messaging them.

■ Start your day with exercise to reduce the likelihood of running out of time or being too tired later.

■ If you and your family love video games, try active ones.

■ Encourage family walks.

■ Toss a Frisbee.

■ Wear a pedometer. 

AAP

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