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How to Help Kids Be More Active

Cedric X. Bryant, PhD, chief science officer at the American Council on Exercise, says today’s youth are largely considered physically “illiterate.” He defines physical literacy as “the ability, confidence and desire to be physically active for life.”

How do you improve a child’s physical literacy? Following are Bryant’s suggestions for inspiring our youth to be active:


  • Model active behavior. The behavior of parents creates a lifelong mental model. Sitting on the couch and telling your kids to go outside and play might work once or twice, but kids won’t internalize the value of physical activity without the leadership of a role model.
  • Embrace variety. Don’t put all your eggs into one sport “basket.” If kids get burnt out or bored, they may lose out on the opportunity to build a passion for an active life. Try a little of everything.
  • Become an advocate. If your playground is full of litter, organize a cleanup. If before- or after-school physical activity programs aren’t available, advocate for them. You can make a bigger difference than you think, and when kids see you fighting for their right to play, they’ll know how important it is.

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