Saturday, July 4, 2015

Four Ways To Encourage Kids to be Active

When my oldest child turned 13 this past spring I was reminded that this was the age that I had stopped being physically active. I enjoyed running track in middle school as a sprinter and participating in relays, however, once I reached high school my fear of failure was greater than my desire to be active. So, outside of two years of swimming in high school, which at the time seemed a much better choice than one year of gym,  I never ran track again. In the end choosing swimming over gym did keep me relatively active for an average of five hours a week for two years.

Fear of failure for teens is incredibly high and it can steal their confidence and sense of value. In the midst of confusing messages given off by the media, peers, adults and the negative voice in their head, teens still need direction and guidance. 

How do you guide an inactive child toward an active lifestyle without rebellion kicking in?

1) Practice What You Preach:

Kids are far more likely to be active if they have a good example to follow. Parents who frequent the out-of-doors, participate in a sport, or are simply active as a natural by-product of their chosen activity, such as bike riding, rollerblading, swimming, skiing or snowshoeing in the winter, etc. all set a great example for children to follow. 

Kids are very smart and super quick to point out hypocrisy when they see it. If we are sitting on the sofa popping bon-bons, screen surfing or tablet tapping they are inclined to copy us.   
2) Disguise It As Family Fun

When the heat of the day begins to wane and the breeze is picking up is an ideal time to set up an obstacle course on the lawn, start a family soccer game or have a jump-rope contest. 

If you are an established athlete following a training plan consider creating a "plan" for your children, as well. A chart with 15 minute increments of time to be filled in with a goal of a few hours of age appropriate activity per week is a great motivator.  

3) Group or Club Activities:

 Many families have had great success with locating group workouts or activities for their children. This could be a running club that trains for a fun run or 5K, swim lessons to brush up or refine their skills, orienteering, or geocaching.

Participating in a sport or playing on a sports team is not exactly the goal, which is simply encouraging movement through a group or shared activity. 
4) Finding Their Own Motivation:

This past spring my thirteen year old ended her activity drought and began exploring in order to discover what she might enjoy or be adept at. I quietly encouraged her efforts; fearing that an all out parade might shut down her progress.

As I was writing this post I asked her what had changed to cause her to decide to join the local Roadrunners kids running club training for a 5K in August or her recent interest in playing volleyball this coming autumn. 

She gave two reasons: The main character in the book she is writing is very active and writing the words repeatedly began to sound intriguing to her. The second reason being that she desired a sport that was affordable and that she could do anytime without having to wait for a season. She could just pick it up and do it. Also, working on her relationship with one of her younger siblings became a priority to her; that relationship is still an ongoing effort but she's working on it and having a shared interest has been key to opening up communication between them. 

Do you have any children that prefer inactivity over movement? What have learned about parenting a child who is uninterested in exertion? 

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