Children and teenagers should ideally be doing at least an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise each day. The reality is that not most aren’t. Getting the right amount of physical activity a day is important as it aids both physical and mental development. Doing regular exercise can help teens build strength, resilience, cardiovascular health, agility, self-esteem, and sets valuable lifestyle habits for their future.
If your child isn’t doing the recommended amount of physical activity, here are a few ways you can encourage them to start moving.
To encourage physical activity in your child or teen, keep trying new things until they find something that sticks. Whether it be a sport, solo activities outside of school such as running or joining a rock climbing gym, or joining a youth-focused gym such as Fitter Futures, the more you try, the more likely your child will find something they truly love.
Some kids just don’t have the energy to participate in physical activity, and this may be because of their diet. By choosing a better source of fuel for your child’s body, you could drastically improve their energy levels. Feeling more energetic might help motivate them to participate in physical activity. As a general guide, avoid refined sugars, eat as many whole foods as possible, and try to include a small amount of protein in each meal or snack. At the very least, ditch the sugary drinks. Talk to a dietician or doctor for more information.
Screens and the apps on them are addictive, which could be another reason your child is avoiding exercise. They’d rather play video games or be on their phone! Whilst it may be hard at first (especially if your child suffers withdrawals, which could happen), by limiting screen time, your child will have to get creative to entertain themselves or find something else to do – like playing outside. Consider having days or times during the week where no technology is allowed, or offer limited screen time as a ‘reward’ for being active. For example, for every hour of exercise your child does, they could earn 15 minutes of screen time (with a daily/weekly limit in play).
Goals can be huge motivating factors for anyone, including youth. Look out for events that they might be interested in or that you could do together (like a fun run, Spartan Race or team event) and figure out an exercise plan to help get you there. Or set a physical challenge (for you and your child) and track progress daily. Think of a suitable reward for the person who is most consistent in taking those daily steps towards the goal, such as a trip to the movies or a day out. Whether it be a goal to improve at a certain activity or some other reward that they can work towards, this positive reinforcement can help encourage them to exercise more often.
The reality is, as parents we can have a massive influence over how our child or teen perceives exercise and it’s importance as a daily habit. Do your best to set a good example and lead with the kind of lifestyle you want your child to have. Look for opportunities to exercise together (e.g. mountain biking, running, or swimming at the beach).
It can be hard to encourage kids and teens to exercise when they don’t want to, but with these strategies, hopefully, their motivation to participate in physical activity will improve over time. For more information on youth fitness, check out our blog.
If you’re wanting to help your child increase their self-esteem, build their confidence, work on having a positive body image and be surrounded by amazing kids and awesome coaches, sign up for a free trial at Australia’s leading functional fitness gym for kids, teens and parents by sign up HERE.