June 28, 2011 at 8:01 AM ET
If you’re looking for creative ways to get your kids moving, consumer electronics manufacturers have recently jumped into the children’s health arena with pedometers that measure how much exercise your kids are getting and offer tangible rewards for their efforts, such as gift cards to Amazon or Toys "R" Us.
My uber-competitive son and his older sister established a challenge to see who could get more steps on their GeoPalz, for example. Who says sibling rivalry can’t be a good thing?
GeoPalz is a popular pedometer ($20) line customized just for kids. Kids can choose between various designs, such as Sports, Rock, Cutesy, and Edgy. Once kids choose their pedometer, they “walk to win” by recording their steps online to redeem gift cards, prizes and awards. Prizes are free, parents just pay shipping and handling.
Older kids with iPhones can download the free GeoPalz app to use with their pedometer, which lets them to track physical activity via a numerical pedometer, a map showing how many steps they've taken or a GPS map with their total distance.
S2H Replay digital watch
The Switch 2 Health's S2H Replaydigital watch ($19.95) is also a fun way to earn rewards for exercising. Not only is it available in lots of kid-friendly colors, the watch format is not as foreign to them as a pedometer. The S2h Replay will tell them when they’ve reached 60 minutes of physical activity, after which, a code will appear and allow them to redeem gift cards from Toys R Us, Amazon, and more. A frowning face will appear to let them know that they aren’t moving enough, a happy face when they are on the right track.
Later this year, Zamzee will launch an incentive-based device aimed at teens. Your teen can wear the Zamzee meter, which will record their physical activity, but is not limited to walking. It also tracks skateboarding, dancing, cheerleading, and more. At the end of the day, they connect their Zamzee to the computer, and their activity will actually power their online account. For example, you can convert activity into currency that you can spend online at the Zamzee store.
If you think our kids aren’t getting as much exercise as we did when we were children, you’re right. According to the Alliance for Childhood, children now spend 50 percent less time in unstructured outdoor activities than in the 1970s due to reduced recess at school, lack of time on the parents’ part, increased TV and computer game usage, and increased worry about crime and safety.
The results are predictable. The number of children and adolescents considered overweight or obese in the U.S. has tripled since the 1960s to more than 15 percent. Eighty percent of those overweight and obese children become overweight and obese adults.
Dr. Liza Natale, a New York-based board certified pediatrician, recommends that parents of overweight and obese children make physical activity a part of family life. “It is not just about the child being more active but the whole family,” advises Natale. “Kids learn by example and things like family bike rides or walking to an activity rather than cabbing or driving can have a positive effect.”
And, it's important for everyone to be active, not just overweight people, she says. “I encourage parents to focus on how physical activity is good for our bodies — keeping us healthy — as opposed to solely a tool to lose or not gain weight."
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