Written by 7:53 pm Fitness and Sports Views: [tptn_views]

How Parents Can Give Their Kids a Healthy, Joyful Relationship to Fitness

When runner Shannon Brady returns home from a race, there’s still more distance to cover: Her daughters, ages 1 and a pair of, borrow her sweaty sunglasses and “run a race” of their very own across the house. “My husband and I are avid runners, and we ensure that [our daughters] see us lace up and have a good time doing it,” says Brady.

Like Brady, many parents aspire to pass down the enjoyment of fitness to their children. A 2022 survey conducted by the fitness brand Life Time found that 89 percent of fogeys enjoyed spending time participating in outdoor recreation and sports with their kids, while 80 percent said they’d prefer to encourage their young ones to do more physical activity to construct their kid’s fitness. So, how do we nurture a love of movement in the subsequent generation?

It’s a critical query because there’s evidence to suggest that our current approach to raising lively kids is probably not working. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children aged 6 to 17 exercise not less than one hour per day, but only about 24 percent of youngsters meet this criteria. Children’s fitness regimens have been slowly declining within the years because the pandemic1, despite the fact that the physical benefits of activity are undeniable. Working out from a young age may stave off heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis, amongst other health issues. And, with regards to the mental side of things, regular exercise has been found2 to cut back anxiety, boost mood, and improve self-esteem and cognitive function, and in addition help kids deal with stress3.

However, with regards to instilling a love of running, biking, swimming, and other activities into our young ones, clinical health psychologist Sarah-Nicole Bostan, PhD, says it’s more about teaching them to like the sensation than to like what the workout can “do” for them. “Teaching children to understand their bodies and all of the opportunities a powerful, agile body affords—irrelevant of weight or shape—lays the groundwork for a lifelong positive relationship with movement, even in a world where the emphasis is usually misplaced on physical outcomes or appearance,” she says.

Shaping your kids’s fitness mindset

Here are 4 ways parents can instill a positive relationship with movement of their kids.

1. Lead by example

Research shows that children imitate their parents4 to practice recent skills and operate in society. So, a baby who sees their parents moving might be inspired to hitch in. “According to social learning theory, children largely acquire recent behaviors through statement and imitation,” explains Dr. Bostan. “That means caregivers aren’t doing their kids any favors by skipping their very own self-care or each day movement routines. In fact, children will learn in the event that they are invited to be lively participants [in sport] and allowed to see what’s happening in a healthy relationship with exercise.”

How you speak about your each day dose of movement also plays into modeling fitness to your child. If you hope to boost a human being who likes to sweat, talking about why you love it may possibly go far. Just you should definitely lead with the feeling-forward values of exercise (fairly than metrics). For example, “I really like how free I feel after I’m swimming within the pool.”

Molly Prospect, a runner living in Hartford, Connecticut, brings her 18-month-old son to observe races, including his dad’s marathons. “We try to maintain him an lively participant within the marathon process, whether it’s supporting my husband on training runs, going to the expo, or ringing cowbells on race day,” she says.

But you don’t have to run 26.2 miles to point out your child the facility of sport. Apart from tagging along for her races, Brady also makes sure her daughters have loads of movement role models around them to reveal what kid’s fitness can appear to be in any respect ages. “We take them to the local highschool girls’ volleyball and basketball games every time we are able to,” says Brady. “At this point, they only last about half-hour, but I feel it’s necessary and fun for them to see other girls be lively and work as a team together.”

2. Keep movement playful and versatile

While there are definitely invaluable lessons in taking sport seriously—just like the importance of resiliency, dedication, and showing up to your teammates—emphasizing movement as play ultimately creates a lifelong love of getting sweaty5. And the latter end result is what is going to ultimately support a healthy relationship with movement. “Sometimes children who’re naturally athletic are encouraged to pursue hobbies that lend themselves to more movement, while children who may not look like athletic—or show difficulty with balance, coordination, and speed—are dissuaded from pursuing organized sports,” says Dr. Bostan. “In reality, each groups will profit from each day movement.”

Pediatrician Sarah Lester, a mother of 4 kids between the ages of 16 and 22, believes that sports practices should feel like a series of games (especially before they reach highschool age). “Ultimately those games lead to quite a lot of movement,” she points out. “If you tell a young kid to exit and run a mile, it’s going to be the rare kid that may keep coming back for more.” On the opposite hand, games like capture the flag, jumping ropes, and ants on a log all encourage running and agility without the pressure of a proper sport.

This joy-first mentality also applies to the kind of exercise children select. While it might be tempting to encourage your infant to emulate whatever movement speaks to you, it’s necessary to allow them to dabble—and drop things that don’t interest them. “You never know what kids will like, and sometimes the social a part of the movement is the part that they actually need,” says Lester. “It could also be a one-and-done season. It will be the starting of a recent passion.”

3. Avoid making a “movement versus screens” mentality

“As a parent, the challenge today is to search out balance between physical activity and the draw of technology,” says Hy Rosario, director of out of doors and youngsters’ footwear at Hoka, who helped design the brand’s kids sneaker. “One wonderful thing about the pandemic was that it truly forced families to get outside, whether it was an easy family walk to present the puppy their workout or occurring a hike to work out some sweat. In some ways, families were directed to search out ways to maintain their mental, emotional, and physical health in check.”

As children’s lives change into increasingly intertwined with screens, it’s necessary to prioritize family outings in the outside while keeping a neutral dialogue about technology. “Meeting kids where they’re at is critical for creating healthy habits that stick, in addition to praising efforts early and sometimes, regardless of the end result,” says Dr. Bostan. For example, she says that in case your child loves video games, it’s possible you’ll wish to pitch a “live-action outdoor video game” and invite their friends. Children’s fitness video games will also be an excellent method to integrate screens and movement.

What you don’t wish to do is create an antagonistic relationship with technology that positions tech because the “bad” thing and exercise because the “good” thing. In time, this approach may lead to your child compartmentalizing screen time as an “award” and fitness as a “punishment.” Instead, encourage your child to take part in a big selection of appropriate activities each online and IRL.

4. Don’t force it

Full stop: You can’t make someone enjoy something. All you may do is introduce your child to an activity and see how they respond. Even though Prospect’s son is lower than 2 years old, she’s already considered what she is going to do if he doesn’t have the identical passion for sport that she does. “I feel I’d respect his decision but remind him that movement normally makes us all feel good,” she says. “I’d encourage him to return for a walk with me, or throw a ball for the dog. Any method to encourage movement without explicitly saying, ‘You have to move.’”


Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the knowledge we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.

  1. Neville, Ross D., et al. ‘Global Changes in Child and Adolescent Physical Activity throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis’. JAMA Pediatrics, vol. 176, no. 9, Sept. 2022, pp. 886–894, https://doi.org10.1001/jamapediatrics.2022.2313.
  2. Sharma, Ashish et al. “Exercise for mental health.” Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry vol. 8,2 (2006): 106. doi:10.4088/pcc.v08n0208a
  3. Hanke, Manuel et al. “Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and reactivity to acute psychosocial stress in preadolescent children.” Journal of science and medicine in sport vol. 26,9 (2023): 487-492. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2023.07.010
  4. Sutherland, Lisa A et al. “Like parent, like child: child food and beverage decisions during role playing.” Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine vol. 162,11 (2008): 1063-9. doi:10.1001/archpedi.162.11.1063
  5. Lakicevic, Nemanja et al. “Make Fitness Fun: Could Novelty Be the Key Determinant for Physical Activity Adherence?.” Frontiers in psychology vol. 11 577522. 15 Oct. 2020, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.577522


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