Teaching our children to love fitness is important for their long-term health and the larger community!
There are countless benefits for children who are active and moving. A few to mention are decreased risk in developing mental and physical health complications, establishing healthy lifelong habits, improved ability to cope and manage emotions, and decreased stress levels. When children are healthy and well they are better able to focus on important things, such as schoolwork.
If your child needs motivation to exercise, here are some tips:
· Keep it FUN! Incorporate games, adventures, walks, new challenges, and time with friends.
Some examples are:
o set up an obstacle course at the park or in your yard, put hula hoops on the ground to hop through, an exercise ball to lay on as you walk with your hands, a safe area to practice handstands, build a snowman, etc.
o count how many cartwheels or jump ropes they can do in a row
o take the dog for a walk on a trail or road you have not explored before
o bike, walk, or scooter to the store instead of driving. If this will be a longer distance than they have gone in the past be sure to have an option if they get tired. For example, if they start slowing down on the scooter, put your child (and scooter) in the stroller to finish the journey. Be sure to praise and compliment them for their success!
· Offer a variety of options: swim, tennis, golf, basketball, etc. Do not push them into a sport that you enjoy or competed in. Be sure to give them different experiences and notice which ones make them happy. If they are laughing, enjoying time with teammates, and do not want to leave practice, be sure to continue encouraging participation in that activity.
· If a child shows distress and ongoing dissatisfaction with a sport or activity, respect that and listen to how they are feeling. We all have different interests and strengths!
Children absorb cues and information from their environment and role models. Your actions play a critical role in the development of your child. To be a role model who makes fitness a priority in life consider trying:
· A regular, consistent exercise routine
· Explain to your children why you are exercising and what the benefits are
· Include them in your goals. For example, if you are running a half-marathon, have them join you for a SHORT (age and ability appropriate) run or walk. Ask your family to cheer for you at the finish line.
· When going on vacation try new, fun ways of exercising such as going ziplining.
Author: Katey Collins, LCSW, MSW
Licensed Clinical Social worker, mother, wife, athlete