With all the screen time we face today, it’s hard to get away from the distractions. This is especially true for the younger generation, because they have grown up with the rapid advances in technology. So how do you get children to exercise?
- Match the activity to age level & skill level – A child’s age and physical development will dictate his/her level of gross (using larger muscles of the body such as running, throwing a ball) and fine (using smaller movements such as writing and eating) motor skills. For example, one child maybe able to run very fast while another child may have a slower pace. If the activity is too easy or too challenging, the child will either get bored or unmotivated.
- Make it a family affair – Depending on child’s personality, having others to bond and socialize with, may make the activity more for fun and engaging such as bike rides, hikes, playing hoops, etc. Also, if there are other people involved, it often won’t feel like a chore and the time usually goes by faster.
- Make the activity fun – To instill a healthy habit, there needs to be neutral and positive associations with physical activity. It needs to be stimulating and slightly challenging to make it feel rewarding alongside the competing phones and gaming devices. Some examples include: having a family dance party, a DIY home project, taking a nighttime walk around the neighborhood, swimming, bike riding.
- Integrate it into the lifestyle; be a role model – To establish exercise as a regular part of a child’s routine, it should be integrated as part of the lifestyle instead of an obligatory part of the day. Healthy, active adults don’t just stop being active after going to the gym, they often pursue other physical activities outside of it as well. If exercise and physical activity are prioritized, then a child won’t see it as something optional and boring but as a normal part of life. For example, a child can help out in the kitchen while you make dinner or help water the plants while you trim.
- Be positive regarding physical activity – It has become the cultural norm to complain and joke about exercise, weight, and food. This makes it seem like becoming and staying healthy is just an inevitable annoyance in life. Children will pick up on the attitudes and messages from the adults around them and end up dismissing the importance of health. So, it is important to nurture an appreciation for health and physical activity.
Ultimately, to get children to be physically active, it’s important to not frame exercise as something boring or negative but as an integral part of life. Exercise is not just limited to the grueling workouts at the gym; it also includes any activity that keeps you moving.