It may seem like toddlers and kids always “on the go,” but recent research reported in Pediatrics, the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, indicates that obesity is rising in children due to a lack of physical exercise. This can lead to health issues later in life.

It is recommended that children 1-3 years old participate in 30 minute of structured (with an adult) physical activity and 60 minutes of unstructured (free play) physical activity every day. In fact, infants, toddlers and young children should not be inactive for more than one hour (except when sleeping, of course!) every day. Regular physical activity in toddlers and kids helps promote healthy growth and development. 

Below are a few easy ways to incorporate physical activity in your family’s regular routine:

Plan an after-dinner walk.
Take advantage of San Diego’s mild temperatures and go for a walk around the neighborhood as a family. Not only is this a great way to keep your family moving, it also reduces stress and helps family members stay connected. If you have a toddler, alternate time your child spends in and out of the stroller or walk to a nearby park to give them a chance to run, explore and climb.

Go on an “activity hunt.” 
Have family members write down different exercises they like (e.g. “20 jumping jacks”) on slips of paper. Then place the suggestions in colorful plastic eggs and hide them around the house or in your backyard. Whenever someone finds an egg, everyone has to perform the exercise. Your kids will have fun racing to find these treats, and you’ll be happy because of the health benefits!

Host a dance party.
Move some furniture to the side and create a space for an informal dance party. Put on a playlist of upbeat tunes that kids and toddlers can sing along and dance to. You can even turn the party into a choreography session in which the older kids devise moves for the younger ones to follow. With all the music and high energy, the kids will reap the benefits of a cardio workout while having a blast.

Have a weekly family-workout night.
Designate a day of the week for Family Workout Night. There are many family-friendly games and activities to choose from, such as jumping rope, playing hopscotch or riding bikes.

Sneak workouts into other activities.
Whether picking up your child from school, buying groceries or running errands, there is always a way to incorporate more physical activity into a busy day. Take the stairs when possible. Walk up the elevator if no one is in front of you. When at the supermarket, have your child walk with you instead of sitting in the cart. Rather than driving directly to pick up your child from school, park a couple blocks down the road and walk the rest of the way. Though they’re not alternatives to regular exercise, these changes are simple ways to lead a healthier lifestyle.

Remember, healthy habits make for healthy kids! Regular exercise can help lower risk factors for serious health problems. If you teach the importance of a healthy lifestyle at a young age, it will be easier for your child to maintain good health as he or she grows into an adult and beyond.