It’s natural for humans to prefer complacency because it is the path of least resistance. However, our bodies were built to move, and when we remain sedentary, it can seriously impact health, both in the short and long term.
This is true for both adults and kids. As a parent, you want the best for you children and you bear some responsibility for nurturing and maintaining their health and well-being. Active children not only tend to enjoy better overall health (and healthy body weight), but they also build confidence in their bodies and their abilities, making them happier and more capable.
That said, it’s not always easy to get kids to do what’s in their best interest. Convincing your kids to exercise can be like pulling teeth. How can you encourage your kids to get active? Here are a few strategies to employ.
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We’re all busy these days, and travel by car is often more expedient than walking or biking to nearby locations, but your health and the health of your kids is more important than saving a few minutes by driving. Whenever possible, skip the car and use your own two feet to get you to the park, to pick up a few items at the grocery store, or to reach other locations in relatively close proximity to your home.
This helps your kids to get moving during everyday activities, it sets a good example, and it helps them to develop good habits. Walking and biking aren’t ideal as exercise goes, but they’re a good starting place for couch potato kids that aren’t necessarily used to strenuous activity.
Before your kids become anxious teenagers that would rather do anything than hang out with their parents, you might gain some traction by turning exercise into a family activity. Head to the park with a soccer ball, a football, a baseball bat and mitts, a Frisbee, or other fun sporting equipment designed for group play. This way everyone in your family can start to develop healthier habits and have some fun in the process.
When you exercise with your kids, you send the message that physical fitness can be fun and social, and you get to enjoy some quality time as a family in the process. If winter weather in your region quashes your normal outdoor activity for part of the year, consider new sports like skiing or head to the local YMCA for swimming, basketball, or racquetball, just for example.
Your kids are likely interested in different types of activities. One might take to swimming like a fish to water, so to speak. Another might prefer hiking and enjoying the outdoors. Another may find any activity that’s not a team sport too boring.
It might take some doing, but figuring out what your kids excel at and what they enjoy can take a lot of the work out of getting them to actually participate. Trial and error are the key, so don’t give up if the first, second, or third activities don’t seem to grab the interest of your kids.
Sometimes working toward attainable goals can help to make physical fitness more fun and get kids invested in participating. You can use goals and rewards to motivate children that resist your best efforts to be active.
For example, if kids are willing to take swimming lessons, you could offer up a summer trip to a nearby beach as a reward for completing their programs. Or you could take a ski trip in the winter. You’re not necessarily going to train for a marathon, but by training with your kids, perhaps you could walk or run a 5K and plan a fun day trip afterward.
You might not be as into technology as your kids are, but perhaps you can use fun tools and apps to help with planning activities and finding motivation. If your kids admire your fancy Fitbit, for example, but you don’t necessarily want to provide them each with a pricey model, consider offering a kids fitness tracker that lets them chart their own steps, offers fitness challenges, and sends virtual rewards.
Some even include cartoons or pets that tie into your kids’ activities. Kid models tend to be durable and water resistant and many feature cool colors and patterns so kids can personalize. It’s not always easy to encourage kids to stay active, but a commitment to sharing their activities, figuring out what they like, and finding ways to make exercise fun and social could help immeasurably.