According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , children should get one hour of exercise each day. “Exercise is at the forefront of physical health,” says Performance Manager Josh Adams, M.S., C.S.C.S., Children’s Health℠ Andrews Institute Sports Performance powered by EXOS. “Exercise helps children strengthen growing muscles and bones and is part of a healthy lifestyle, combined with quality nutrition and adequate sleep.”
Some children are naturally drawn to physical training and easily find ways to be active. Others, however, need a little encouragement. If your child falls under the latter category, consider these tactics to get your son or daughter moving more.
1. Find a reason to exercise.
The most effective way to stick to an exercise or training routine is to find a true motivation. Talk with your child about possible benefits of exercise. The reason should be specific, yet simple. Is it to build strength, learn a sport, use new exercise equipment, have more fun outdoors or become an athlete? Ask your child to imagine working toward his/her goal and to continually paint the mental picture.
2. Set precise, descriptive goals.
Achieving small, incremental goals leads to long-term success. Your child can start small, like helping to take the family dog for a walk. Achieve the first goal, then set a new goal and so on. For walking or running, good short-term goals may be the number of miles or blocks per day or the number of consecutive days that the activity was performed. This helps keep your child focused on his/her current task while working toward the ultimate vision. Remember: short-term goals help achieve long-term goals.
3. Build momentum.
The more your child moves throughout the day, the more energy he/she will have for actual training or exercise activities. As a family, try making a habit of choosing the stairs over the elevator; move around the house every hour; or stand more instead of always heading for the couch. Moving more throughout the day leads to being able to move more during training, which leads to even better energy levels during the day. It’s a positive form of the snowball effect.
4. Mix it up.
Doing the same type of exercise or activity can become monotonous, no matter how enthusiastic your child may be. Run, walk, bike, swim, dance, shoot hoops…the options are almost endless. Encourage your child to mix it up. This will help both the body and the mind to stay engaged in the activities.
5. Keep expectations reasonable.
Having high expectations is great. But make sure they are also reasonable. There is no magic pill for physical health or performance. Children’s bodies take time to improve and adjust. Support your child in working toward the ultimate goal, but make sure the ultimate goal is realistic and that he/she understands this is a daily process, not just a one-time accomplishment.
Be sure that your child’s training activities are in line with his/her age and natural abilities. For activities on the more strenuous side, talk with your child’s primary care physician. A doctor can offer advise about the amounts and types of physical activity that are appropriate for your child's age, abilities and health.
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