Kids are naturally energetic. If you've ever watched children run around at a playground, it can be difficult to imagine that energy ever fading. Unfortunately childhood obesity is on the rise, and one of the big factors aside from a healthy diet is lack of activity.
Children have to stay motivated to continue an active lifestyle as they get older. They may face challenges when school gets busier, or when they see their parents making excuses about avoiding exercise. Kids may have low self-esteem when encouraged to join a sports team, or if they have a family life at home that doesn't support in a healthy lifestyle.
Parents also may feel wary about letting their kids run off around the neighborhood as well due to safety concerns, which is another situation that could reduce the ability for children to get enough exercise.
There are still plenty of ways to keep kids active despite these difficulties that parents may face. Just as with your own health, setting up healthy habits now will lead to a healthier and happier future.
Ways to Increase Children's Exercise
Choose an activity that fits their age.
Kids will get frustrated if the activity is too challenging, or bored if its too easy. Some examples of age-appropriate exercise opportunities:
Preschoolers: jumping rope, tag (and other yard games), riding push-bikes (no pedals), dancing, playground hide-and-seek, obstacle courses.
School-age: simple team sports (baseball, tetherball, foursquare, basketball), hiking, trampoline parks, swimming.
Teenagers: bike riding, skiing, skateboarding, running, team sports (basketball, football, tennis, etc.), rock climbing, gymnastics.
Set a good example.
Your behavior influences children, therefore your desire to be active in everyday life will set a good example. The activity doesn't have to be a full family excursion (although those certainly don't hurt), but your desire to go for a run, get to the gym, or do yoga in the morning will be viewed as a natural way to act and make it easier for a child to embrace that lifestyle.
Provide the right tools.
A child may feel less confident with exercising if they don't have comfortable clothing, footwear, or other gear to move around and/or play a sport. Providing them with the right gear will help them feel more enthusiastic about exercise, even if it is purchased second hand to reduce cost.
Choose exercises that help increase skill.
For example, improving at riding a bike will help a child feel accomplished and confident in continuing to ride. A child that begins doing karate or ballet will advance as they get more skilled, and gain motivation in turn.
Make sure it's fun!
Just like adults, kids need to believe that exercise is a fun activity in order to have the motivation to do it. Get a little creative with your own workout routine and they will be more likely to have the desire to join in!
No matter what, your encouragement, support, and personal example of lifestyle will go a long way in motivating your child to exercise.
[Credit: Connecticut Children's Medical Center. Motivating Kids to Be Active.]