On the Move: How To Get Your Kids Active

Father and son in the gym. Father and son spend time together and lead a healthy lifestyle. Man and boy are working out. Father and son are doing exercise.

Key Points 

  • Children who don’t exercise are at risk for detrimental physical and mental conditions.  

  • Learning and implementing various ways how to get your kids active will improve all aspects of their lives. 

  • Physical activity improves brain function which leads to increased focus and productivity.

  • Encourage physical activity in your children by inviting others, creating a routine, and letting them choose.  

As a parent, you worry about your children’s future. You want to raise them to be successful, healthy adults. Knowing how to get your kids active is one of the best ways to work towards these goals.  

Digital devices grip children and hold them hostage. Their eyes glisten with the changing colors on the screen. The tablet blares with bells, whistles, and all sorts of attention-grabbing mechanisms. They've been glued to the same spot for two hours. It’s time to learn how to get your kids active.  

Benefits of Active Children 

Healthy kids turn into healthy adults. Kids take education and experience from training in childhood to their adult life. Active children have better moods, mental health, and self-esteem.  

According to the World Health Organization in 2020, 39 million children under five were obese. Physical activity decreases obesity and reduces the chances of becoming obese.  

Physical activity also bolsters brain function. Exercise improves blood flow which takes more oxygen to the brain. As a result, you’re able to think more clearly. Improved oxygen and blood movement also reduce stress and depression. Signs of anxiety and depression could suggest lazy child syndrome.  

A father and daughter exercise together

Lazy Child Syndrome 

Lazy child syndrome occurs when a child lacks motivation, energy, and ambition. They may be underachievers and have a sense of entitlement. Parents need help getting these children interested in the world around them. 

It’s frustrating to see your child not live up to their potential. Accomplishing little, despite the opportunities and resources given, is disheartening. Luckily, there are many ways to encourage physical activity for your child!  

Encouraging lazy children to improve their physical activity is indeed a challenging feat. Sometimes it’s no easier than feeding peanut butter to a bear. Keep reading to learn excellent ways to keep your child fit and healthy.  

How to Keep Your Child Fit and Healthy 

Physical activity comes in many forms. Keeping your child fit and healthy doesn’t mean going to the gym and powerlifting until they’re bigger than you. Physical activity includes dance, karate, sports, walking, and lifting weights.  

Exercise and physical activity are similar terms, but they have different meanings. Exercise is a movement with a goal, such as a certain number of repetitions or sets. Physical activity is any muscle movement that requires more energy than being at rest. The exercise aims to work the body by pushing it past the resting point. 

Physical Activity for Children 

Children need physical activity to get the most benefits from their bodies. Some of these physical activities include swimming, walking, yoga, jumping rope, playing hopscotch, and more.  

When the body moves, blood flows, and oxygen spreads throughout the system. Improved blood flow and movement of oxygen help clean toxins from the body. Physical activity, even just walking, makes you healthier.  

Physical activity is beneficial, but if a child is obese or looking to lose weight, exercise is the best way to get started. There are three forms of exercise: bone strengthening, aerobics, and muscle development.  

Bone strengthening exercises place stress on the bones, so they become stronger. In addition, these exercises – such as hiking or using the elliptical – slow the process of mineral loss. Mineral loss leads to brittle bones.  

Aerobic exercises work on the heart and lungs. They improve heart function, carbon dioxide excretion, and lung ability. Aerobic exercises increase your heart rate and breathing and hold it there for an extended period (think of running a mile or swimming three laps).  

Muscle development exercises increase the size and strength of muscles. Weightlifting is beneficial for muscle development but should be done safely and with the correct equipment. The best type of exercise for your child depends on several factors.  

A father and son practice kickboxing

What Exercise Is Best for My Child? 

Children decide what they like and where they direct their attention. Trying different exercises is best for discovering their favorite activity. The movement should require effort, but not so much that the child gets hurt or burnt out.  

Resources and availability also determine how to get your kids active. Do you have access to a gym? Can you run at a local park? When are you free during the week? Decide what you must do to find the best exercise.  

Children six or seven years of age and older are a good age to start lifting weights. However, the child should be sound of mind, able to listen, and follow directions. Running is an excellent activity for all ages, but running too long could get boring. It’s important to know what your child prefers for exercise, especially for overweight children.  

How To Get an Overweight Child To Exercise 

Dr. Edward Laskowski at the Mayo Clinic states, “including physical activity into your child’s daily routine sets the foundation for a lifetime of fitness and good health." 

Obesity in childhood results in a life of health problems. Overweight children experience little energy, body pain, unstable moods, and adverse mental health. However, many health issues disappear after weight loss. Getting overweight children to exercise is more complicated than regular-weight children because of the conditions they experience. 

Consider the following ways to start integrating more physical activity into your kids’ lives:

  • Include physical activity in daily activities: Sneaking physical activity into their everyday life makes it easier to get them to agree.  

  • Create family events with exercise: Family field day, games with neighbors, or a reunion with bounce houses make them excited to move. Including the family also gets them motivated.  

  • Set positive examples: Being active in front of them encourages them to do the same.  

  • Teach them the benefits of exercise: When they visualize their future, they have something to work toward and use as a goal.  

  • Practice age-appropriate exercises: Weightlifting may not be as enjoyable as running up and down a soccer field. Kids get discouraged and unmotivated when they don’t enjoy the activities they are doing.  

A group of kids playing soccer celebrate a goal

  • Use incentives: Use rewards like more game time or staying up to motivate obese children to exercise. Try to avoid using food as an incentive. Their brain associates success and happiness with food. The link between joy and food makes it harder for them to put it down.  

  • Get tools to help them: You don’t have to buy a $1,000 weight machine with cables and extensions. Purchasing a few dumbbells, resistance bands, and weighted balls allows them to get a good workout. Plus, kids are excited to play with new equipment!

  • Set up the scene: Turn your garage into a mock gym. Tape up giant posters of famous football players and bold motivational quotes in a spare bedroom. Take them to a park, court, or field. Seeing a large, green field makes them want to run through it.  

  • Sign your child up for a sport: Sports come with practice, weightlifting, running, and more. Sports get your kid sweating, which helps with weight loss.  

  • Make exercise fun: Create competitions or relay races for a team or competition element. The competitive factor makes them forget they are exercising.  

Getting overweight children to exercise is especially important, so hopefully, some of these tips will be useful in your own journey. 

What Happens if Kids Aren’t Active? 

Lazy children often want others to be lazy with them. When choosing what to do, inactive children want to watch television or play video games. They veer toward activities requiring little or no movement.  

Inactivity is linked to symptoms of depression. Depression causes kids to lose interest in their hobbies and activities. It makes children withdraw from friends, family, and everyday life. Children who aren’t physically active have a higher risk of depression.  

Kids who aren’t active also have a higher risk of developing bad eating habits. Being sedentary makes you tired. When you’re tired, your body craves sugar for energy. Craving sugar leaves children reaching for soda, candy, and sugary snacks. 

You're aware of the harms of inactivity, but you also know it could be a fight trying to get your kids moving. If you want them to exercise, don't force them. 

Should I Force My Child To Exercise? 

Forcing your child to do anything sounds like a bad idea. Forcing your child to exercise makes them hate it. They develop a negative relationship with physical activity, which causes them to avoid it in the future. Your best bet is to learn how to get your kids active.  

Two kids stretch on yoga mats

How To Get Your Kids Active 

It’s easier to get some kids moving than others. However, there are tactics to sneak into activity throughout the day (like hiding vegetables in pasta sauce):

  • Create a chore chart: Using a chore chart might not be your kid’s first choice, but it gets them active. These charts also teach accountability, self-discipline, and responsibility.  

  • Invite others to join: Some children are more willing to exercise in groups than alone. Adding friends and family to the mix encourages them to get their muscles moving.  

  • Promote healthy activities over unhealthy ones: Instead of watching television, have your children go outside and fly a kite or drone. Encourage them to go to the park instead of playing video games.  

  • Give them a healthy balance: Putting too much activity into one day quickly tires them out.

  • Let them choose the activity: Giving them more control over the situation encourages them to participate.  

  • Get into a routine: A routine gives children stability. It allows them to plan out activities. Giving children a schedule makes them more willing to exercise because they know it’s part of the routine.  

  • Set time limits on screen time: It’s easy to get sucked into the world of bouncing players and cartoon reruns. Setting time limits keeps your child from spending all their time sitting down.  

  • Be safe: Children aren’t going to keep exercising if they’re regularly getting hurt or are in pain. Use the secure form, technique, and equipment to ensure proper movement.  

A baby craws to their mother doing yoga

  • Make a plan: Don't forget to plan for successful exercise by packing clothes, snacks, or equipment. Make sure you have time to exercise without replacing essential tasks. Forcing activity into their day causes stress.  

  • Wear the proper clothing: Buying new exercise clothes motivates kids to wear them. Wearing athletic clothing makes it easier for them to hop right into the activity!  

  • Be consistent: Letting your child talk you out of it occasionally won’t hurt. Letting them say no every time gives them control. Be consistent with what you say and do to show you mean business.  

  • Replace transportation with exercise: Allow your kids to bike to school or walk with them to a nearby park. Park towards the back of a parking lot so you take more steps.  

  • Improve your water intake and nutrition: Having enough water, minerals, vitamins, and nutrients the body needs to operate gives you more energy for movement. It also makes exercising more effective and beneficial.  

Knowing how to get your kids active is great, but you also need to know how often they should be engaging in exercise.  

Recommended Activity Levels 

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children aged 6 – 17 get at least one hour of moderate physical activity daily. This is a general recommendation and varies with each child.  

Children with disabilities need different levels of exercise. Other kids, such as those with mental health disorders or hyperactivity, could require more movement each day. Talk with your doctor about the best recommendation on activity levels for children.  

A group of dancers perform on stage

Get Going 

You now know the benefits of activity for children, why it’s essential, and how you should turn your couch child into a gym rat (not really, but you get the idea). You're ready to get your kids moving!

At first, it can be a fight to get your kids excited about exercise. Despite the struggle, following these tips, staying strong, and being consistent will change their lives for the better – and what parent doesn’t want the best possible life for their kids?

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