When most adults think about exercise, they imagine working out in the gym on a treadmill or by lifting weights.

But for kids, exercise means playing and being physically active. Kids exercise when they have gym class at school and when they play soccer, practice sports, or have dance class. They are also exercising when they are at P.E., riding bikes, or playing tag.

There are many benefits of exercise for kids. Kids who are active will:

• Have stronger muscles and bones;

• Have leaner bodies because exercise helps control body fat ;

• Be less likely to become overweight;

• Decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes;

• Possibly lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels;

• Have better outlooks on life.

In addition to the health benefits of regular exercise, a kid who is physically fit sleeps better and is better able to handle the physical and emotional challenges that a typical day presents, be that running to catch a bus, bending down to tie a shoe, or studying for a test.

The percentage of overweight kids has more than doubled over the past 30 years. There are many factors that contribute to this, but it all boils down to the fact that kids are sitting around a lot more than they used to. Parents should encourage their kids to participate in a variety of activities that they can enjoy. Limit the amount of TV and video game time that your children get.

Combining regular physical activity with a healthy diet is the key to a healthy lifestyle for a child as well as an adult. You owe it to your children to teach them good healthy habits while they are young. They may fight you now, but years down the road they will be thanking you for it.

Remember: If you don’t take care of your body, where else will you live?

Lynn Pass is owner of The Gym in Oneonta. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Health and Human Performance from Auburn University and personal training and aerobic certifications in ACE, AFFA, and ACSM.