For example, if you have a bookworm who’d rather be on the math league than out on the baseball diamond, talk with him about how exercise can pump up his brain with better concentration and focus.
3. Get sneaky. There are a lot of ways to get kids active without them realizing they’re moving more. Park your car far from the mall entrance so everyone has to cover more ground to get inside. Or, if your child loves animals, suggest that she volunteer at a local shelter where she can get on dog-walking duty.
“Rather than looking at it like you’re being sneaky, think of yourself as the mastermind of your child’s wellbeing,” says Kathleen Bethin, MD, PhD, clinical associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Buffalo.
4. Understand why your child doesn’t like to exercise. It might be a simple reason, like she doesn’t like being hot and sweaty. Or there might be other issues at play. Is she being bullied on the tennis court, or having trouble breathing when she runs?
If you know what’s going on, it’s easier to find a solution to help her.
If you can’t seem to get to the bottom of it, consider bringing your child to a counselor, who might be able to help you understand why your child doesn’t want to get active.
“You may not have the skillset to uncover the root cause of why your child is avoiding exercise, and that’s OK,” Bethin says. “There are professionals who can help.”
5. Start small. Experts say kids should get about an hour of exercise every day -- but that doesn’t mean you should tell them that, Bethin says. “If exercising for 30 minutes feels like too much to kids, they’re not going to do it,” she says.
Instead, get them to commit to a tiny amount of exercise time, even just 5 minutes.
“The goal is to get them to set and stick to a goal,” Bethin says. “When kids commit to even a small amount of exercise, they’ll likely feel better about themselves and reflect back and say, ‘I did it.’” That will inspire them to do more and more over time.