5 Ways to Encourage Your Kids to Exercise More
One of the parent's greatest challenges in the 21st century is keeping kids active when there’s so much connected entertainment to keep them entertained indoors (and online). But, with a little planning, it’s really not that difficult to reintroduce your kids to the wild – and we present 5 steps toward it here:
1. It All Adds Up
The first thing to realize is that getting your kids back in action doesn’t have to feel like boot camp. Indeed, pushing them too hard too fast is likely to be counter-productive.
Instead – and before you do anything – consider how much exercise they’re currently getting. If the answer is not much at all, you may have to build up slowly. But that’s fine because tweaking their routine is much less likely to be a shock to the system.
Consider all the opportunities for the physical activity your child has over the course of the week. For starters – could they walk more? A ride in the car might be convenient, but walking to the destination will get them out in the air and provide some gentle exertion. Likewise, walking a family dog is a great way to combine exercise and fun.
2. Be a Role Model
Parents of kids who don’t exercise inevitably have to ask themselves if they’re really setting a good example. If they’re unfit – and largely inactive – they have to realize any demands ton work out are going to look somewhat hypocritical.
If this is the case, the good news is you can use it as a way to support each other. Walk the dog together, for example. If you have a garden, set aside some time to work on it – and ask them to help. Enlist your kids in chores around the house that will instill a sense of responsibility but also provide a mild workout.
Best of all, when kids see their parents looking healthy and (most importantly) involving them in fun activities, it’s the best encouragement they could receive.
3. Try Different Sports
Sometimes kids give up on sports they don’t have much of an aptitude for. While this is understandable, a healthier attitude is to enjoy the thrill of taking part – and gradually improving (even if they’ll never be one of the better players in their group).
Alternatively, help them try out other sports and activities. There’s such a range – from jogging to yoga, golf to trampolining, it’s very unlikely they’ll dislike them all, and finding one they genuinely enjoy will do much of your work for you. And once they’re hooked, taking a friend or two along will strengthen the habit. Either way, any new sport is a great way of making new friends.
And, for those worried about the environmental impact of sportswear, the good news is that the industry is becoming more and more sustainable. Even big manufacturers like Nike have embraced the changes our kids' futures need – with the energy used to produce their footwear having been reduced by 55% in the last ten years.
4. Limit the Alternatives
One challenge with the current younger generations is the sheer amount of options they have to entertain themselves without moving a muscle.
It’s a good idea to limit screen-time for this reason, for example. Another benefit of reducing the amount of time they spend watching TV or playing games late at night is that they should sleep better, since the blue light produced by electronic devices has been proven to feed insomnia.
Likewise, instead of training your kids to go online as a reward for completing their homework, reward them with some time outside with their actual parent. You’re never too old to throw a ball around, and you can bet this time spent together will provide both of you with a whole lot more memories than times you sat in different rooms watching different screens.
5. Make it routine
A healthy exercise regime (like a healthy life) is all about balance. And how your child’s activities relate to their relaxation time is key to how they’ll experience both.
The worst would be when a child is allowed to slob about for the vast bulk of their time before being suddenly ordered to throw themselves into vigorous exercise. Not only does this make the exercise feel like a punishment, but the general inaction means they’ll probably struggle to keep up anyway.
But if the kid is doing at least some exercise daily (even if it’s disguised as walking or gardening), their baseline fitness will benefit and their options increase. If they’re going to take lessons in a sport, it will be the same time each week, which helps it become habitual – and scheduling other activities will work the same way. Walk the dog each day (or take turns). A long walk or a few hours in the garden each Sunday – whatever works for you.