For many kids, movement is second nature — playing tag and swinging from the monkey bars are the best part of the day. And yet most kids aren’t getting the exercise they need to thrive.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children get at least an hour of physical activity a day. Only about 25% hit that mark.
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The Many Benefits of Exercise
Want to improve your child’s quality of life both now and in the future? Encourage them to exercise. For kids, some of the benefits of physical activity include:
- Building strong bones and muscles, which can help with injury prevention.
- Boosting self-esteem, confidence, and enthusiasm.
- Getting better sleep.
- Improving attention, behavior, self-control, and performance in school.
- Reducing anxiety, stress, and tension.
- Reducing the risk for chronic conditions — such as heart disease and diabetes — later in life.
Making Exercise Fun for Kids
Exercise should be fun at all ages, but especially for kids. Fun exercise for kids is even more important since they’re forming attitudes toward physical fitness that can last a lifetime. The more you can find fun exercises to do at home, the more you’ll set your kids up for success.
Here are some tips for getting your children to move more:
Explore a variety of activities
Because we all have different personalities and skillsets, we all like doing different things. Some may love team sports like baseball, while others prefer unstructured activities like sledding or skateboarding.
Take some time to explore which activities your children like best. By trying new things, they may discover a love for being active they never knew they had.
Set the example
When kids see you exercising, their interest in doing the same grows. Plus, working out together can also be a great way to bond. But even if you do different activities, children will find inspiration in you as a role model.
Look for ways to up the engagement
There are lots of methods to add a bit of fun exercise to your day.
Turn a standard walk into a scavenger hunt. Build an obstacle course in the backyard. Or if you’re sitting around the house, put on some music and throw a spontaneous dance party.
And don’t forget those backyard games you played as a kid — things like three-legged races, egg-and-spoon races, and wheelbarrow races. Those are all good for both breaking a sweat and getting in some laughs!
Provide any needed equipment
Make sure your child has access to whatever they need to be active, whether that’s a pair of shorts or a skateboard. Just having a variety of equipment around will make your children likely to move more.
Roller skates, bikes, and balls of all kinds (basketballs, soccer balls, footballs, volleyballs, baseballs, etc.) are all good to have on hand.
Kids who are competitive might like a rewards system for accomplishing a fitness goal. Rewards could include choosing the destination of your next family day trip or getting a break from chore duty.
Even something as simple as a chart with stickers awarded for each exercise session can be motivating.
Make working out a positive experience
Don’t use physical activity as a punishment if your child does something wrong. This could encourage a long-lasting unhealthy relationship with exercise.
It’s also important to ease kids into more exercise if they’re not getting much at the moment. Gradually build up the time spent being active so that it’s not overwhelming or discouraging.
If they don’t hit the 60 recommended minutes one day, don’t worry. Regular exercise for kids builds the foundation of a habit, and not every day will be perfect. Keep finding fun exercise ideas, and you’ll help your children grow into healthy adults.
To learn more about sports and activities for kids – and how UPMC Sports Medicine can help young athletes prevent and rehabilitate activity-related injuries – visit our website or call 1-855-937-7678.
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About Sports Medicine
Sports and physical activity bring with them a potential for injury. If you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury – or improve athletic performance – UPMC Sports Medicine and the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program can help. We serve athletes and active people of all ages and experience levels. Our experts partner with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers, and about 100 other high school, college, and regional teams and events throughout Pennsylvania – working daily to build better athletes.