Tips to Get Kids Excited About Exercise

Here are some ways to help create a healthy, active lifestyle for children.

Here are some ways to help create a healthy, active lifestyle for children.

A child’s external appearance may not always be a true indication of what’s happening on the inside of their body. They can be skinny on the outside with a high internal body fat percentage, so appearance isn’t an effective gauge. Even if weight is not a problem for your child, you still shouldn’t let them consume a ton of junk food and sit around all day. It’s important to understand that children need regular physical activity in their lives.

The American Heart Association states that an increased level of physical activity for children can lead to a decreased risk of developing cardiovascular disease later in life. This reason alone should be enough to inspire you to help your child get up off the couch and start moving. So, here are even more reasons why physical activity is good for them:

Physical activity can help children to:

  • Control body weight and body composition
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Reduce risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • Improve psychological well-being
  • Improve self-confidence
  • Improve self-esteem

The wonderful health benefits associated with regular physical activity may be enough to convince you to motivate your child to get moving. Trust me, as a mom to four young kids, I understand that your determined young child or grumpy teenager may care less about their long-term health and would much rather eat chips and play video games. So, here’s a list of five ways you can motivate an inactive child to get moving:

Find Their Interests

Trying out various activities until something sticks is a great approach to creating life-long habits. Don’t make a big deal out of the experience, just simply say, “I thought we could all go and try X today for fun.” Make sure it’s an activity that has you all moving, and see if they ask to go back.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

A simple pedometer can create a challenge that not only burns calories but creates many fun conversation and interaction. This is perfect for pre-teens (my kids love to compete to see who gets the highest number), but I’ve also seen this simple method of recording daily movement be effective with teenagers and adults.

Give Real Rewards

Get creative with a daily rewards system that recognizes healthy choices. Pick a gift or family outing that you know will motivate your child to keep up with their activities long-term.

Lead by Example

Be a good example and get active with your family. Children love to emulate their parents, so set a good example by making your own health a priority.

Don’t Use Exercise as Punishment

Make exercise and activity a positive experience for everyone involved. Using it as a form of punishment, or kicking your kids outside when it’s cold to ‘get active,’ may create a negative association with exercise that will last into adulthood.

Kids go through many growth spurts, especially as they approach their teenage years. We have to be conscious of their ever-changing needs and continually find ways to motivate and inspire them to be healthy and active. A diet and lifestyle overhaul for a child should be gradual over a prolonged period of time so they can achieve success.

Written by Susan Bowerman, M.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Senior Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training

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