Children of every size and shape can benefit from increased physical activity. Through exercise, your child can gain the health benefits of stronger bones and muscles and lower blood cholesterol levels, as well as a decrease in blood pressure and in the possibility of developing type 2 diabetes. Children can enjoy other benefits as well: better sleep, better concentration and the ability to better handle life's emotional challenges. Of course, getting kids to exercise can sometimes be a challenge. Making it a fun, natural part of the day is the key to success.

Limit your child’s time in front of the TV, computer and video games to fewer than two hours a day. Teens should also have limits on texting and other passive activities, such as phone calls. This opens up a lot of time for a child to spend in more active pursuits and helps prevent obesity and its associated health problems.

Encourage your child to choose a sport or activity she enjoys, but don’t pressure her to compete. Not all children are comfortable with their bodies and might feel uncoordinated or self-conscious. Praise her for trying to learn new skills and for the effort she puts in, instead of for specific outcomes or awards.

Help your child to stay active for an hour or more a day by working it into your family’s daily routines. Take the steps instead of the elevator when possible while running errands or join her to walk the dog when you have an extra 15 minutes before dinner. Make it fun whenever you can. For instance, dance around the room while folding laundry.

Join your child, in traditional active pursuits like hiking, biking and swimming or try something new. By finding a variety of ways to stay active as a group, your child and the rest of the family is more likely to enjoy exercise and stick with it.

Allow your child a chance to choose an activity for the whole family on a rotating basis with parents or siblings. Provide basic guidelines, then see how creative she can be. She just might surprise you with a new activity the whole family will want to try again and again.

Invite your child’s friend to join her for a bike ride, a trip to the pool or whatever activity she has planned. She will have more fun and be more likely to stay active for a longer period of time if it feels more like a play date.