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Teach your children that play is exercise
Arianne Brown writes about the importance of teaching children that play, such as jumping on a trampoline, is exercise. - photo by Arianne Brown
Upon returning home from school recently, my 7-year-old daughter, Azure, came running in the house, proclaiming, Mom, I want to go exercise!

Immediately, she changed out of her school clothes and into exercise apparel, including her running shoes. She then announced she was going to run a lap around the block and quickly headed out the front door.

I waited at the corner to cheer her on and fully expected that her one lap would satisfy her need to exercise. Azure, however, did not stop at the corner but continued on to do two more laps.

After her third lap, she grabbed a drink of water, then said, Mom, I want to do more exercise. Will you come downstairs and watch me lift weights?

Not wanting to stifle her ambition, I followed her to the basement where we have a variety of weights of all colors and sizes.

She grabbed two blue 3-pound weights and began lifting them. She then held one in front of her and began doing squats, then positioned them both on the ground shoulder width apart and began doing a series of pushups.

As I stood there watching my daughter complete what I knew as a circuit training rep, and as I thought back to the laps she had just run, I had a moment of excitement and even pride because I knew those were things she had learned from watching her dad and I do similar exercises.

The excitement however, didnt last long, as just to the right of me was a window that looked out to our backyard filled with fun things to play on, including a trampoline, gymnastics bar, tether ball, soccer goal and yards and yards of plush, green grass that were just screaming to be played on.

Right then, I turned to Azure, who was just about to start her second set, and I asked her if she wanted to go outside and exercise.

Just as she was about to bring her weights outside, I stopped her and said, No, why don't you just go play!

She looked back at me, confused. This gave me the perfect chance to explain that exercise didnt just include running laps and completing reps with weights it is about moving her body.

Reluctantly, she left the weights inside and headed out to the backyard. As she pulled herself up on the gymnastics bar, she looked over at me and asked, Is this exercise? Then, she did some flips on the trampoline, kicked the soccer ball into the goal and ran over to the tether ball and gave it a good whack, all while asking the same question: Is this exercise?

Each time I confirmed that the activities were indeed exercise, her smile grew wider. Just then, her friend from next door had walked into our yard. In no time, the two were playing together on the trampoline.

Sure, it was a proud moment for me to see the ambition in my young daughter as she exercised like mom and dad, but seeing her run around and play in a form of exercise that was more natural for her to do was much more joyful to watch.

And I may just join her next time.
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