3. Find the Right Exercise for Their Age
When considering the best type of kids' exercise for your child, it's helpful to try to tap into activities that work to your child's age, interests, and strengths.
Young Kids and Grade-School Kids
- Explore different activities. "Try to expose your school-age child to as many activities as possible," says Lisa Esposito, MS, RD, CSSD, LN, a sports dietician with Sanford USD Medical Center in Sioux Falls, S.D. "At this age, kids often like team sports, such as soccer, basketball, or volleyball." For kids that don't like team sports, try activities such as gymnastics, swimming, or dance.
- Practice builds confidence. "If your child feels self-conscious about her weight, she may feel more comfortable being active in the house or in her own backyard," says Alderman. "You can try to find fun ways for her to exercise at home, like setting up an obstacle course, using an active video game, or playing catch."
- Buddy up. If your overweight child is reluctant to try any kind of exercise, it may be helpful to find a mentor. Younger children often look up to older kids and enjoy doing things with them. Look for an older friend, relative, or neighbor to be active with your child. This will help her see that it's "cool" to exercise.
Tweens and Teens
At this age, it can be a bit trickier to get children interested in new activities.
- Think outside the box. "You may need to start with small changes," says Esposito. This might mean walking to school, doing chores, being active with friends, or volunteering. Your teen may also be interested in doing active things with you, such as taking a yoga class, going on walks, or training for a charity walk or run together.
- Go digital. Turn your teen's love of technology into activity. "There are all kinds of fun apps that teens can use to track their physical activity," says Alderman. "Or your teen might be interested in doing a GPS scavenger hunt with friends." GPS scavenger hunts, also known as geocaching, use global positioning system devices to direct players to treasure boxes hidden in a variety of locations.
4. Keep at It
If one approach or type of kids' exercise doesn't work right away, don't be discouraged. There are no simple answers, and no single activity is right for all kids. The key is to stay positive and be active yourself. Before long, your child will likely follow in your footsteps.