Sneaky Fitness Excerpt

Just as The Sneaky Chef taught parents how to feed healthy food to their children in the guise of kids' favorite foods, Sneaky Fitness shows parents how to easily bring age-specific exercise into their children's lives without them realizing what's going on. You can let them spend some time getting to the next level of their favorite video game knowing that they've already gotten in some time flexing real-life muscles. After all, it doesn't matter how kids come to learn that moving their bodies makes them feel good, what matters is that they learn the lesson before it's too late.

Sneaky Fitness isn't gym class or another afterschool activity to schedule. Instead, it's a way to weave a cardio workout, strength training, and flexibility into your kids' everyday routines without them even realizing it. Just as in the Sneaky Chef books, we encourage parents to continue to teach and discuss healthy habits, including exercise. Sneaky Fitness aims to get your kids moving more, burning more calories, building more muscle, and generating more energy, all of which will inspire a natural desire to do more. Once they get a "taste" of how good it feels to be more active, they'll be more likely to say "Yes!" when you ask if they want to sign up for a sports team or go for a family bike ride.

Take Marcie, a young client of Larysa's. The 12-year-old hated to exercise; it was almost as if she were afraid of it. "I tried my best with her," says Larysa, "but I couldn't get her to stand up, let alone break a sweat!"

Larysa persevered, however, mostly out of deference to Marcie's mother, who'd been a client for years. "I knew her mom was desperate. She was worried that if her daughter was this out of shape at age twelve, what would her health be like when she's eventually on her own?"

One day while Marcie sulked in the corner, Larysa, out of sheer boredom, balled up wads of old junk mail, struck the classic basketball pose, and aimed for the wastepaper basket. After about five minutes, she made it more difficult for herself by moving farther away from her makeshift target.

Marcie watched Larysa for a while, and then, suddenly, asked if she could try. Larysa tossed her the paper ball and said, "Sure. Here you go."

Marcie made the first eight shots without so much as touching the rim of the basket. This was fun! She kept going-all the way to her middle school gym, where she became the youngest point guard in the school's history-soon she was running from one side of the basketball court to the other, hopping, jumping, and waving her arms. Marcie was getting a great workout-but it didn't seem like work.

Then there was Tiffany. She was a chunky 13-year-old who was already starting to feel low about her body. Her mother wanted to help her improve her self-esteem before it got worse. Tiffany came to Larysa's studio with iPod buds in her ears and a sullen look on her face. Larysa asked her what she was listening to-and told her she also loved L'il Kim. In fact, she asked to hook Tiffany's iPod to Larysa's speakers so she could listen as well. They started to dance. Larysa did some intense moves. Tiffany, not to be outdone, followed her. Soon it was a game: Larysa would make a move, and Tiffany would copy it, adding another element. Dancing? Yes. Exercising? Absolutely. But Tiffany didn't find it a chore. "It was really fun for me, too," Larysa says.

The same sneak-up-on-you method also works for younger kids. When Tommy's school held its annual Presidential Fitness tests, the baseball-loving, athletic third-grader was embarrassed that he couldn't do push-ups or pull-ups, despite his skills on the field. So when he and Larysa met, she decided to give him another challenge. "Kids love contests," she says. "So I pulled out a copy of The Guinness Book of World Records and we found someone who, for example, jumped 255 times in one minute." She then challenged Tommy to see how many times he could jump in the same amount of time. With every challenge the contests helped him build his strength, agility, and stamina and by the time the next Presidential Fitness tests were given, Tommy not only improved his scores, but he also felt a huge sense of accomplishment.

A different victory was won with 4-year-old Claire, a friend's daughter, who preferred playing with her dolls to getting dirty in the backyard. "I had my dog Zoe with me," says Larysa, "and I asked Claire who she thought was faster, her or Zoe." They decided to find out. Claire raced alongside Zoe from one end of the backyard to the other, giggling the whole time. "Claire was elated and proud that she 'won' and turned to her mother to boast that she was 'faster than Zoe,'" Larysa remembers.

With Sneaky Fitness, kids of all ages and all personalities will discover how good it feels to get their blood pumping and muscles moving. They'll realize the confidence that comes from being strong and capable and will eventually not just embrace exercise as a vital part of their everyday lives but actually begin to crave it as well.

So, other then asking your kids to drop and give you 20, what's a parent to do?

Here are some examples of over 100 activities and tips that you'll find packed into the pages of Sneaky Fitness-enough to keep your kids moving every day for months on end!

  • Harness kids' "fidget factor" - we want them to fidget! Plant items in TV room like a hippety hop, mini trampoline or hula hoop--they'll naturally jump, bounce and move while watching (studies show fidgeting can burn up to 350 more cals per day than being stationary).
  • Skip, hop or jump to your next destination rather than just walk.
  • Leave a stopwatch around and time them doing all their normal activities--guaranteed they'll move a lot faster than normal and burn way more calories!
  • Make it a rule that your tween must be up and moving to talk on the phone--burns 3x calories as sitting
Make exercise fun by calling it a game! Try these ideas:

"Dig to China" - dig and fill pail with dirt, snow or sand; move pail away for supercharge; burns 68 calories in 30 minutes (more than triple what they burn on TV or computer)

"Window Washer" - shaving cream and colored crayons make "cleaning" windows fun for kids - spray it on and let kids clean it off with a squeegee or sponge; you can even do this on the shower walls which gets kids clean and fit at same time! burn twice as much as watching TV!

"Paint the House" - hand them a bucket of water and let them paint the house (outside)

"So You Wanna Be a Rock Star" - your tween rocker will burn 123 calories for every hour of filming and dancing through her music video!

"Halftime Show" - at commercial breaks, encourage kids to imitate their idols like Hannah Montana singing and dancing. burns more than triple the calories than just sitting thru the commericals. great for tweens.

"Set Up Shop" - great for rainy days - have kids set up a grocery store using the cans and boxes in your pantry; have them bag the groceries and help carry them to the "car." then they have to put it back in the pantry - burns 48 cals every half hour (more than double sitting in front of tv)

-Dust Mop Slippers - burns 68 calories per half hour dusting your floors with their feet.

Missy and Larysa are real moms with real kids, who are faced with the same challenges as you when it comes to keeping their children healthy. Their days are filled morning to night with homework, after-school activities, jobs, walking the dog, grocery lists, and more. There's not enough time to do everything. Luckily, they've figured out some real, doable solutions that don't take much time and show results fast. Together, they'll easily help you get your family to the starting line for a vigorous and vibrant life. Ready? Set? Go!

The Sneaky Chef is available at fine booksellers everywhere: