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Keeping your kids active is easier said than done. Add in a pandemic that cancelled many extracurricular activities as well as recess and gym classes for kids who preferred to stay out of the classroom, and this past year was more challenging than ever to get those kids off the couch and playing outside.
If you’re a parent who’s struggling with this very issue, you’re not alone. Over 75 percent of children age 6-17 don’t meet the recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous daily physical activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But you know that the health benefits of staying active are too important to let your efforts fall by the wayside. Just like you, an active kid will feel more confident and enjoy heightened mental and physical health just as soon as they get their hearts pumping. As a parent, you know that your life is a whole lot easier when your kid is on board with the game-plan you have in mind, and the same goes for sticking to a healthy fitness routine. It turns out, the answer could lie in the way you frame your thinking about what “counts” as exercise.
During childhood, the focus of exercise shouldn’t be on weight, but rather, building knowledge of the benefits of exercise and how to be motivated to do it, suggests a recent study published in the Journal of Teaching in Physical Education.
The study, which followed 450 children ages 10-12, found kids who had decent cardiorespiratory endurance were more likely to participate in physical activity outside of school, regardless of their BMI. Other factors that had zero to do with how active a kid was outside of school? Enjoyment of PE class, muscle strength, or motor skills. Translation: even if your kid isn’t a star on the soccer field or complains about gym class, they’re still great candidates for finding and loving physical activities that they enjoy, and that will build lifelong healthy habits.
But what’s a mom to do when her kid is more interested in social media than anything else? First, remember that you’re the biggest role model they have (even if they tell you otherwise). “A healthy lifestyle starts with you,” says Laura Kasperzak, Alo Yoga ambassador and mom of two. “Both of my kids joined me in my yoga practice when they were younger because I always practiced around them. They saw it every day and tried to copy what I did.”
Being active played a significant role in Laura’s childhood; she trained as a gymnast before competing in cheerleading. Now at age 11, Laura’s daughter is following in closely in her footsteps, dancing competitively over 12 hours a week.
“Any time doing anything with your kids can only strengthen your bond. Plus, she always loved to be able to ‘show mommy up’ on her mat,” says Laura.
Whether your child shows interest in team or solo sports, has an affinity for creating obstacle courses in the backyard, or loves to climb everything in sight, the trick is to encourage any type of active behavior and build upon it to inspire a connection with their own body, while developing a passion for movement. Here are some ways you can help your kid become more active.
5 WAYS TO ENCOURAGE YOUR KIDS TO BE MORE ACTIVE
1. Encourage your kids to choose an after-school sport with a focus on friendship. For adults, working out with new friends increases the amount of physical activity they participate in, according to a University of Aberdeen study. Kids operate in a similar manner, feeding off the habits of their own social circle. Researchers also suggest students who don’t participate in after-school activities are less likely to be active during their down time.
2. Add daily physical activity into your family routine. Build guaranteed physical activity into your kids’ schedule. Whether you commit to a nightly after-dinner walk or opt to ride your bikes for school drop-off, little habits can mean a lifelong, healthy relationship with exercise.
3. Lead by example. Along with being active with your kids, it’s important to still have your own workouts (for many parents this can be the only alone time we get!). Remind your kids how important physical activity is through your actions and positive conversation. If you’re complaining about “having to work out,” your kids might interpret that being active is something to dread.
4. Ask questions about your child’s physical education curriculum at school. Students who are more active during PE are more likely to stay active after school and on weekends, according to a recent study. Advocate for your child to have a well-rounded experience that doesn’t undermine the value of physical education. This is also a good way to get a read on what activities your kid does and doesn’t like, as PE switches up activities frequently.5. Be flexible with what “being active” looks like. If your child doesn’t like a sport or activity, don’t force them to continue. Instead allow your kids to test a variety of ways to move their bodies. “Encourage them to join you in whatever fitness modality you love, but also encourage them to try any sport they find interesting,” says Laura. “Eventually they will find their own thing and hopefully will continue to move throughout their life.”
Are you working out with your kids? We want to see your photos on Instagram. Tag @strongfitnessmag and use the hashtag #MySTRONGMoment for your chance to be featured in an upcoming issue!