Maybe your child hates sports, or gets more excited about video games than the kickball field. Or maybe he feels too out of shape to keep up with other kids his age. Whatever the reason, it can be tough to motivate a kid to exercise when he just isn’t interested.
You know that nagging doesn’t work. And you might worry that if you push too hard on that evening walk or little league sign-up, you’ll turn your child off of exercise for good.
But you have more power than you realize, says Blaise A. Nemeth, MD, associate professor at the American Family Children’s Hospital at the University of Wisconsin.
“Parents can do a lot to help inspire even the most sedentary kids to move more,” he says.
A handful of tricks can get children moving more on a regular basis, even if they won’t be signing up for a soccer team any time soon.
1. Understand that exercise looks different for kids. To you, working out might mean running on a treadmill for 30 minutes or burning a set number of calories. But kids are active in a different way than adults, Nemeth says.
“Children exercise in short bursts and use their bodies in lots of different directions,” so keep that in mind when you’re suggesting activities for them, he says. “Think of yourself as if you were a playmate -- not a personal trainer.”
So instead of sending your child out for a jog, offer to play a family game of tag in the backyard.
Bonus: “When you get moving with your kids, there’s a triple whammy effect: Your kids get moving, you get moving, and it’s a great way for all of you to interact with each other,” Nemeth says.
2. Talk about the benefits of exercise. You don’t have to convince your child to change his hobbies or interests. Just help him understand all the ways that moving his body will help him feel better in other parts of life.