Did you know that kids 6-17 should be getting 60 minutes or more of physical activity a day? If you are thinking to yourself that there is no way your child gets that much activity, you are not alone. Although kids are naturally active – just look at any small child on a playground and its apparent that this is what their body was made to do – it can be a struggle for parents to get their child to participate in physical activities. What might not be quite as apparent, is how encouraging this kind of behavior in your child or teen can lead to a lifetime of health.
As kids get older, it can be more challenging to keep them active as much as they should be. This can be due to: school demands, a lack of active role models, busy schedules, and for some they may feel like they aren’t good enough at certain sports or activities to participate with their peers. There are also factors such as the general safety of kids being outside by themselves. Many parents may not feel as comfortable as their parents might have with letting their child play outside, unattended for long periods of time.
With all of these factors working against parents and their children, it is even more important to over-communicate the benefits of exercise and what it provides over a lifetime of participation. These benefits include: healthy weight, better sleep, strong muscles and bones, and thanks to hormones (cortisol and endorphins) exercise will make you feel better as well. Mastering physical skills will also help to build confidence in your student.
But, how can I motivate my child to participate? There are three main things we can focus on. First, make sure that the activity is appropriate for your child’s age – if you don’t, they are more likely to get bored or uninterested. Second, keep the focus on fun – kids won’t do something that they don’t enjoy. This can get tricky with younger kids wanting to change sports every five seconds, but deciding rules around sticking out the season up front will help. Third, give your child plenty of opportunities to be active – this can be as easy as taking them to the park or going on a bike ride with them. If they want to participate in an activity, this would mean signing them up or making sure they have what they need for equipment.
Whether your child is a non-athlete, casual athlete or athlete, making sure that you understand your kid’s personality is vitally important to how successful they are in physical activities. If your child falls into a non-athlete category they will require much more encouragement in participating in activities. The athlete child might need encouragement to keep on doing things for fun instead of always taking things seriously as they get older. No matter the personality of your child, they can all be fit and as a parent or guardian, you are important in cultivating a positive attitude towards exercise. Make sure that you are supportive of their interests and soon they will be participating without your needed encouragement.
-Amber Moyer, Exercise Specialist