Exercise is a great way to reduce childhood obesity because it burns calories and has multiple emotional and cognitive benefits. Unfortunately, there’s several exercise roadblocks for children, both at school and home. For example, physical education classes are being cut or shortened, which reduces exercise at school. Ever-present screens take up a significant amount of time from the day—leaving less time for kids to move their bodies. And for some kids, their own parents do not serve as good role models for the benefits of exercise.
Here are tips for parents who want to improve their child’s health, yet find their kids aren’t motivated to exercise:
Find Creative Outlets
Kids crave new adventures and stimulus, and they also need some structure. Parents need to creatively discover new activities they can do with their kids that mix fun and exercise. Pulling kids away from video games, their phones and other distractions is challenging. So, parents need to consistently find new outlets for exercise. Here are some ideas:
- Take a hike in the woods. Most kids instinctively bond with nature, and a tromp through the woods helps them both mentally and physically. If you’re in an urban area, then try to find the nearest wooded park to explore.
- For younger kids, try a dance party several times a week. Set a schedule so it becomes part of the daily routine and be sure to play music they like.
- Older kids might enjoy a charity walk or run. Get them involved in fundraising and exercise at the same time.
While many kids do participate in structured sports leagues, these can become repetitive over time. Consider adding some other forms of exercise to their practices to keep them engaged and work their muscles in different ways.
Engage them with the Right Equipment
Motivating kids to exercise often requires certain equipment. A sturdy multi-sport net and goal is a great start. Whether they play baseball, softball or soccer, a return net helps them burn calories while they work on their sport. There are also several “smart” connected balls and equipment that give parents and kids data on their kicks or swings.
Get creative, and search for some interesting products that engage the entire body. For example, a product called the Pumper Car is a seated plastic-shelled car. It’s operated with a hand and foot pumping motion that’s like an old-timey railroad hand-pump car. The Pumper Car is designed for all kids. It’s perfect for those with physical or mental limitations due to its smart design and simple operation.
Encourage kids to exercise by finding fun products. Instead of a plain black yoga mat, buy one with their favorite cartoon characters. Get them a fitness tracker so they can set and beat daily steps goals. You don’t want to spend a fortune, but purchasing items that encourage exercise is better than resorting to buying your kids the latest video game or technology.
Be Their Guide
Parents mold their kid’s behaviors and actions every day. Most children end up talking like their parents, enjoying the same foods and often embracing the same outlook on life. Children of parents that are always watching TV and eating low-nutrient food will likely reflect those behaviors growing up.
It’s important for parents to also exercise, so they can serve as good role models and “practice what they preach.” Find activities the family can do together such as bike rides, walks, trips to the beach, or even sports. And kids should also see parents doing their own exercise routines, whether it’s a cycle class or pickup basketball.
Encouraging kids to exercise can only happen with direct and enthusiastic parent involvement. Change happens slowly, so if you’re a parent who is new to exercise, take your time with your kids. Don’t expect them to go from the couch to running a 5K in a month but start with walks and yard work. Stay connected and positive and change their (and your) exercise habits over time.