It’s not hard to get little kids to run and climb at the playground. But can you instill a love of physical fitness that sticks after they’ve outgrown the monkey bars?
Once middle school starts, children exercise less. They may lack an adult role model, stay busy with extracurricular activities or think they’re just not good at sports. But exercise is extremely important for kids’ health and development.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children should get an hour of exercise every day. Why? Because physical activity
- Builds strong muscles and bones
- Manages weight
- Lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes
- Improves sleep
- Builds self-esteem
- Increases motivation at school
How can you ensure your children get in a healthy workout?
Make It Fun
If you want your child to enjoy exercise and ultimately stick with it, you need to make it enjoyable. Some children are drawn to team sports like basketball, football or soccer, while others may take a liking to individual programs like track, tennis or ballet.
It’s important to respect your child’s interest so you don’t unintentionally discourage physical activity. Pushing your child to compete in a sport that doesn’t interest him or her can cause frustration or boredom. By the same token, don’t set unrealistic performance expectations. Let your child know that getting exercise and having fun is more important than winning.
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Keep It Interesting
Kids can exercise without realizing they’re being physically active — if they can focus on other things. Provided it’s safe, allow them to bike or walk to school or a friend’s house. Turn on their favorite music and hold a dance-off in the living room.
Play a classic game of tag, kick the can or ghost in the graveyard to get aerobic exercise without concentrating on the exercise itself. Skateboarding, rock climbing, ice or roller skating, jumping on a trampoline and bowling are also good options for physical activity that don’t focus on the required effort.
Get Friends Involved
They say friends are the biggest influence in a child’s life. In fact, Time reports that kids are more likely to exercise when accompanied by supportive, encouraging companions. Children work out more willingly and get past the typical excuses when they’re having fun with other kids who enjoy the same thing.
Seek Out After-School Programs
Organized clubs and school programs offer students the chance to experience a sport like running or swimming. Programs such as Girls on the Run and Fit Kids America encourage physical fitness through interactive sessions with trained instructors, and the YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs offer after-school fitness programs.
Feel the Burn Together
Modeling behavior is a great way to make sure children exercise, so bring them along with you. Take a yoga class together, go for a jog or take a bike ride as a family. You’ll value the time together, and you’ll set a good example for your child to follow as he or she grows up.
Above all, have fun! Allowing for spontaneous play doesn’t just avoid burnout on organized sports; it keeps everyone engaged in an activity that might just create a personal passion later in life.
Have tips on keeping kids physically active? Share them below!