With another Northwest Ohio winter on the wane, many parents are more than eager to get their kids off their backsides and doing something active outdoors. Kids, on the other hand, may not share their parents’ enthusiasm for physical exertion . . . or the outdoors. In fact, some parents may need to explain exactly what “outdoors” is. (It’s that extra space they walk through between buildings and vehicles.)
The bottom line is, kids rendered soft and listless by months of inactivity—and lured by the ever-present siren song of technology—are going to need a little inducement if parents want them to exercise. Here are some tips that just might help:
#1 Start early
The earlier kids learn to enjoy physical activity, the more likely they are to stick with exercise for a lifetime. It’s also a lot easier to encourage kids through example while they’re young and impressionable and still want to emulate Mom and Dad. That’s not to say it’s too late to motivate teenagers to get moving, but by that stage of the game, you’ll definitely need to call on all your powers of persuasion.
#2 Provide the right tools
Finding outdoor activities to partake in isn’t as intuitive to kids today as it once was. (Remember when your parents sent you outside in the morning and said, “I don’t want to see you until lunchtime”?) So, in order to facilitate healthy physical activity, you’ll need to make sure the right tools are on hand—balls, bats, bikes, skates, scooters, jump ropes, hula hoops, hockey sticks, nets, mitts, sidewalk chalk for hopscotch, or whatever else your kids might enjoy using with their friends or siblings or even by themselves. Remember, active play is the best form of exercise for young kids. Teaching them to equate exercise with fun is more than half the battle.
#3 Find a sport that fits
If your child is ready and willing to participate in organized sports, explore all the options until you find one that fits his or her interests and personality. Don’t assume that just because you excelled at football or basketball, your child will want to do the same. Keep in mind that some kids may gravitate naturally to team sports while others may be drawn to more individual activities, such as hiking, archery, rock climbing, swimming, or even fishing. Remember: it doesn’t have to be about competition!
#4 Go by pedal or bipedal
Whenever possible, bike or walk to destinations in reasonable proximity, and encourage your kids to do the same. For example, if they’re clamoring for a cone or milkshake from the local ice cream shop on a summer’s evening, don’t offer to drive them there; prompt them to ride their bikes instead. Then, at least, they’ll burn a few calories and build some muscle before and after enjoying their frozen treats.
#5 Lead by example
“Do as I say, not as I do” is not a good mantra for parents who want to encourage their kids to exercise more. Just as with other healthy habits—such as eating more fruits and vegetables and limiting screen time—the best way to elicit the desired behavior from kids is to lead by example. That means you’ll also need to shut off the TV and other devices, get off the couch, and get active. Otherwise, your kids won’t take your suggestions to heart.
#6 Get in the game yourself
Perhaps the best way to encourage kids to be more active is to play or compete right alongside them. For example, preparing for and running in a family 5k or fun run together can be a powerful motivator. Dave’s Performance Footgear sponsors many such events for the entire family (see page 16 for a listing).
But whatever you choose certainly doesn’t have to be an organized or expensive activity. Simply walking the dog, hiking, biking, paddling a canoe, or playing catch together can be more than adequate—not to mention a great opportunity for family togetherness and conversation.