How to get your couch kid to exercise

We all know that Ministry of Health guidelines state that your child needs at least 60-minutes of physical activity a day. But what if your child hates exercise?

It may be an incredible disappointment to you. You may be a runner, a cyclist, a gym-goer or yoga loving hipster, but your offspring just didn’t seem to receive that gene.

Or, you may be a couch potato yourself but don’t want your kids to fall into the same trap. Either way, we’ve got some tips to get your littlies active.

1)    Think outside the playing field
Not everyone is drawn to organised sports like rugby or netball. Look for other activities that your child may enjoy: dance, rock climbing, swimming or martial arts. And have patience – sometimes it can take a while to find the right fit. The earlier you start, the better, when it comes to non-athletic kids. That way, you are giving them a chance to develop an appetite for exercise long before they’ve set their mindset that it’s not for them.

2)    Join the game
Kids love it when their parents play with them. You can encourage your child’s fitness by taking a family hike, having a game of back-yard catch, hopscotch, bouncing on the trampoline and much more. You don’t need fancy equipment or special classes to encourage your child to exercise.

3)    Limit screen time
Passive pastimes are the nemesis of a fit and healthy kid. That’s why it’s a good idea to limit the amount of time your child spends with screens each day – whether it’s watching television, surfing the Internet or playing video games. Encourage active pastimes instead – shooting hoops at the local playground, walking the dog, or a game of tag. And stick to your guns: one sign of weakness on the tech front and it’s game over!

4)    Lead by example
If you vegetate in front of the television every night, the remote control in one hand and a bag of chips in the other, you’re not practicing what you preach. And your kids aren’t likely to respect restrictions you set on their screen time either. So check your own viewing behaviour and serve as a role model by incorporating physical activity into your everyday life. When you can, walk instead of driving. Climb the stairs rather than wait for the elevator. Regularly participate in active pursuits that you enjoy and let your kids see.

5)    Bring a friend along
Kids love to hang out with their peers, so get them to invite a buddy along for a bike ride, offer to bring a friend ice-skating, or head to the pool with a group of kids in-tow. Young kids love going to the playground with friends to chase, climb, swing, slide and run. Your child is probably more likely to joins a sports team or try a new activity if a friend is involved. Take advantage of that.

6)    Use exercise as a reward
Forcing a child to go outside and play may backfire and increase resentment and resistance. For this reason, never make exercise punitive. Don’t make your child run laps or do push-ups as a punishment. Instead, try using physical activity as a reward. For example, your child might be happy to kick a ball around for 20-minutes if it’s a break from homework.

Interested in family health articles? Check out this: www.familytimes.co.nz/hygiene-hypothesis-says-were-too-clean-for-our-kids-good.