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How to Help Children Learn to Love Fitness

Kids are born to move. But how do you encourage all children to be active and healthy?

child on bike

Image source: Thinkstock

Fitness is a topic near and dear to my heart. As a kid, I was never particularly fast or coordinated. I tried out for all the sports in middle school, but at my competitive school I never made the cut. So at an early age I decided I wasn’t an athlete and stuck to the things I knew I did well, like reading and academics. As an adult, I realized the importance of exercise but I always struggled to find things that I enjoyed. Finally, in my 30’s I discovered running. And then, much to my surprise and delight, I discovered Powerlifting a couple of years ago. Turns out I may not be very fast, but I am pretty strong! I frequently joke that I am an “adult-onset athlete.”

This slow process to finding a form of exercise that is not only good for me but that I enjoy tremendously led to me thinking.

How can I help my patients discover fitness earlier in life?

I want my pediatric patients to be happy, healthy and active. But not everyone is cut out to be a football player, a gymnast or a competitive dancer. How do we help our kids learn to love fitness and have healthy movement as a regular part of their lives?

Some kids are born to move.

You know those kids. They never slow down! But other kids need more encouragement. Your child’s talents may be artistic or mathematic or computer driven. They may have a naturally more sedentary personality. But that doesn’t mean they have to be couch potatoes.

Here are a few ideas to get kids moving. The key here is that it needs to be fun! Sure, you may have to encourage them out the door a time or two. They may be shy or feel that they might look silly trying something new, so be patient and supportive.

  • Is your child shy?
    Team sports may not be the right way to go for a kid who already struggles being in large groups or having to perform in front of others. Start small in the backyard. Kick a soccer ball around with mom or dad. Try Badminton. Play hide and seek or tag.
  • Nature lover?
    Take a hike! Austin is full of great little hikes and trails, even in our own neighborhoods. If your child is the artistic type, try taking photos along with way to create a collage or collect leaves and flowers for an art project.
  • Active kid who isn’t super coordinated?
    Try jump houses or gymnastics classes for fun. Safety first, make sure the kids are well-supervised and the area is well padded and safe for tumbles.
  • Game geek?
    If you’ve got a kid who loves to play video games all day, he or she may love acting out those activities while playing laser tag. For more adventurous (and older) kids, paint ball or parkour may be right up their alley. (don’t know what Parkour is? Check out http://www.texasparkour.com/academy )
  • Dancer?
    Take him or her with you to your Zumba class. Not only is it fun and great exercise, it’s a chance to bond with your kid while being active.

Other ideas include canoeing, stand up paddle boarding, frisbee, fencing classes, olympic lifting. The list is endless. Get out there and help your child discover something new!

Stay well!