How to Motivate Your Child to Exercise: Tips from the Experts

It's challenging to motivate children who do not enjoy exercising. However, parents have more authority than they may realize.

Encouraging Children to Exercise

🏃‍♂️👧 Maybe your child hates sports, or gets more excited about video games than the kickball field. Or maybe they feel too out of shape to keep up with other kids their age. Whatever the reason, it can be tough to motivate a kid to exercise when they just aren’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 fear not! You have more power than you realize, says Dr. Blaise A. Nemeth, 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.

So, how can you get your child excited about exercise without pushing too hard? Let’s dive in and explore some expert advice.

🤸‍♂️ 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, says Dr. Nemeth.

“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,” Dr. Nemeth says.

🧠 Talk about the benefits of exercise

You don’t have to convince your child to change their hobbies or interests. Just help them understand all the ways that moving their body can make them feel better in other parts of life.

For example, if you have a bookworm who’d rather be on the math league than on the baseball diamond, talk with them about how exercise can pump up their brain with better concentration and focus.

🕵️‍♂️ 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 they volunteer at a local shelter where they 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 well-being,” says Dr. Kathleen Bethin, clinical associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Buffalo.

🤔 Understand why your child doesn’t like to exercise

It might be a simple reason, like they don’t like being hot and sweaty. Or there might be other issues at play. Are they being bullied on the tennis court, or having trouble breathing when they run?

If you know what’s going on, it’s easier to find a solution to help them.

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,” Dr. Bethin says. “There are professionals who can help.”

⌛ Start small

Experts say kids should get about an hour of exercise every day – but that doesn’t mean you should tell them that, says Dr. Bethin. “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,” Dr. 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.

🔄 Switch up your go-to family activities

Instead of Friday night movies or going for brunch after church, head to a trampoline park or rock climbing wall, or take a hike with a picnic lunch. Offer up some new, movement-focused ideas and see what excites your kids the most.

“Just like adults who avoid workouts that they hate and make the exercise that they love a priority, kids will want to continue to do what they truly enjoy,” Dr. Bethin says.

🤝 Engage with your child

Remember, every child is different, so it’s important to find what works best for your child’s interests and abilities. Make exercise a fun and positive experience for them. Listen to their needs and concerns, and find ways to address them together.

By incorporating movement into your child’s daily routine and discussing the positive effects of exercise, you can successfully inspire them to embrace a more active lifestyle.

📚 References: 1. Anaerobic Exercise: Benefits, How It Works & Examples 2. Research Shows the Brain Benefits of Exercise

💭 Q&A

Q1: Is exercise the only way for kids to stay fit? A: While exercise is important for maintaining fitness, it’s not the only way for kids to stay fit. Encouraging a balanced diet, limiting screen time, and promoting outdoor play are also essential for their overall well-being.

Q2: How can I motivate my child to exercise if they have a sedentary lifestyle? A: Start by incorporating small bouts of physical activity into their daily routine. Encourage activities they enjoy, such as dancing, swimming, or playing active video games. Make it a family affair to create a positive and supportive environment.

Q3: What are some creative ways to make exercise fun for kids? A: Consider organizing nature scavenger hunts, creating obstacle courses in the backyard, or participating in family dance parties. Making exercise enjoyable and engaging will increase their willingness to participate.

Q4: Are team sports the only option for kids to get active? A: Team sports are a great option for many children, but they’re not the only way to get active. Individual activities like biking, hiking, martial arts, and yoga can also provide numerous physical and mental health benefits.

Q5: How can I encourage my child to exercise without putting pressure on them? A: Focus on creating a supportive and non-judgmental environment. Be a role model by participating in physical activities yourself. Offer praise and encouragement for their efforts rather than focusing solely on performance.

Let’s get our kids moving and set them up for a healthy, active future! 🌟

📢 Have any other tips for motivating kids to exercise? Share them in the comments below and let’s inspire and support each other! Don’t forget to share this article with other parents who might find it helpful. 💪✨