These days if a child isn’t playing Fortnite, they’re listening to music, or watching YouTube and all the while they’re probably consuming junk food. As a result more kids are obese and at risk to contract diabetes and high blood pressure. To combat this problem parents need to encourage and motivate their children to exercise.
Parents should first explain the benefits of exercise, of which there are many, to their children. Some of the benefits are:
· Children who regularly exercise and participate in sports are more inclined to keep on exercising when they become adults.
· Exercise, such as team sports, is key in the development of interpersonal skills like team building.
· Studies show that children who exercise regularly have better school attendance and perform better academically.
· Regular exercise provides higher self-esteem, improved self-image, and greater confidence.
Over one third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese. That is why promoting exercise and healthy living in your child’s life is extremely important. There are three things to remember when trying to motivate your child to exercise:
· Choose age-appropriate activities – Children could become frustrated or bored if the activity is not geared for their age group.
· Allow ample opportunities for your children to be active – Provide play equipment for your children and/or take them to playgrounds.
· Keep the activities fun – When a child does not enjoy an activity, they will not do it.
Preschoolers need activities that aid in developing their motor skills. Some ideas of these activities are follow the leader, tag, or going through and obstacle course.
School age children need to find activities that they enjoy and will continue to do. This could include any sport or activity like hiking or bike riding.
Teens have many options to stay active. School sports or after school activities like dance class or skateboarding with friends are just a few options. Making sure your child has a ride and proper equipment is an easy way to make sure they stay motivated. A teen may feel awkward if they don’t have the proper footwear for their desired activity.
Another important thing to remember is your child’s fitness personality type. Not all children want to play professional sports so it is important there are three different fitness profiles in children. The three main profiles are:
· The Non-Athlete – Lacks athletic ability and has little to no interest in physical activities.
· Casual Athlete – Shows interest in physical activity but is not a skilled player, can be easily discouraged in competitive physical activities.
· Athlete – Has athletic talent, often shows commitment to an activity or sport.
Some basic tips and motivational strategies are:
· Provide a Good Example – In order to excite your children about exercise, you must be excited. Go out and be active along with your children. Children learn by example. When the parents are overweight by twenty to thirty pounds, they send mixed signals to their children.
· Exercise with your Children – A great way to increase the overall health of the family is to exercise together. Motivation has to come from the parents through example. Family physically activities should be scheduled regularly.
· Turn the Television and Video Games Off – Sadly, by the time they graduate from high school, the majority of children will have spent more time playing video games than in school. Set limits on television and video game time for children and be sure to enforce those limits.
· Make it a Group Activity – Allow and encourage your children to invite a friend to join in on physical activities. Often having a friend along makes the activity more enjoyable for the child.
· Plan Active Activities that Do Not Seem like Exercise – Walking the dog is a good activity. A trip to a nature center or the zoo could also count as exercise because of the vast amount of walking involved.
These are just some basic tips and examples of ways to motivate your child, as always make sure you are leading by example. Your child will be more inclined to exercise and live a healthy lifestyle if you do, keep each other accountable and help track each other’s progress.
-Nick K., Exercise Physiologist at Dedham Health and Athletic Complex