Motivating Kids to Exercise
It can be tricky to motivate your kids to exercise when sedentary activities (such as surfing the Internet, texting friends, watching TV shows and movies, and playing video games) compete for their time. However, it’s important to find a balance so that kids are doing both and getting the physical health benefits of regular exercise.
Keeping Your Children Active
Setting clear expectations about exercise is crucial for keeping children active. Some families say that kids can earn 30 minutes of screen time for every 15 to 30 minutes of physical activity. The physical activity comes first. The screen time comes second.
Find ways to get physically active together to increase physical benefits for the whole family. To get young children active, go to the playground together and play. With older kids, take hikes in the woods, go canoeing, ride your bikes, or find some other physical activity you enjoy doing together.
Set a good example. Kids are more likely to exercise and experience the benefits of sports and fitness if you’re doing the same.
Don’t expect schools to provide opportunities for kids’ physical activity. With budget cutbacks, most kids do not get physical activity during the school day. Today, only 30 percent of kids have physical education classes five days a week.1
Look for physical activity that gets kids excited. A number of families have discovered that Wii Fit (a video game for Nintendo’s Wii) is a great way to get the physical benefits of being active while playing video games. (And it also gets family members to engage in fun competition with each other.)
If your child isn’t used to exercising, start small and slowly. It’s better for a child to start with five minutes of physical activity a day and see how that goes over a week’s time before increasing the amount. Too many kids jump in too fast and do too much, which turns them off to physical activity (and can get them injured).
Talk to kids about the mental and physical benefits of exercise. Kids are more likely to do something if they understand why it’s good for them.
Keeping children active is one of the most beneficial things that you can do for them. Not only does it keep them healthy now, but it also sets a good example for when they are adults and are making their own decisions about physical activity. Make sure they experience the physical benefits of being active early so that they continue throughout the rest of their lives.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2007,” Surveillance Summaries, MMWR 57, no. SS-4 (2008): 27.
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