Some days, when the girls are running circles around the house or bouncing on the couch, I wish they’d be less active. Other days, I worry that our lifestyle is too sedentary; we enjoy watching movies as a family, playing board games, and reading lots. I appreciate Kimberley Payne‘s encouragement to keep fit and found myself nodding along with these three ways to motivate kids to be active.
1. Pick the Right Activity
Growing up, my parents offered me the choice to play soccer or softball. I tried both and although I wasn’t horrible at either sport, I didn’t love game nights. I stressed about letting the team down.
It wasn’t until adulthood that I realized it wasn’t sports that I didn’t like but playing on a team. I’m more of a one-on-one type of girl. I prefer tennis over ball hockey, squash over volleyball. And given the choice I’d rather challenge myself than an opponent. I love to hike in the woods, bicycle on the rail trails, and swim in my pool.
Children need to know there are many ways to get their exercise—they need to find out whether they prefer being a team player, facing an opponent head-to-head or going solo. As a parent, we can help our children by offering them a variety of sports and activities to try for a season and then open up discussion about how they feel about each activity.
2. Be a Role Model
My parents offered a weekly night at the local YMCA where we swam together as a family. They took us to forests for long walks after church on Sundays. My mom played tennis and my dad biked to and from work.
They modelled a healthy life and it became part of my sinew to exercise. I didn’t flinch at the 30-minute walk to school. My three older brothers also maintained healthy lifestyles. I believe that my parents’ behaviours set the example for us.
Children are influenced more by what we as parents do than what we say. If you want your child to exercise more, you will need to “walk the talk” and be more active yourself.
3. Encourage Purposeful Fitness
When I was young, I remember having to get up off the couch, walk across the living room to the television, and manually turn the knob to turn the channel. I’m sure that you’ve had the same experience. Although technology has improved our lives significantly, it has also made things a little too easy.
Teach your children not to exercise just for the sake of exercise, but instead to incorporate fitness into your everyday. For example, bike with your children to pick up your mail instead of driving. Walk, bike or even roller-blade around the neighbourhood with the family pooch. Hike through the fields and pick wild flowers to make floral arrangements for gifts—a thoughtful gift for both yourself and your gift-receiver. Recruit the children to help bring the groceries into the house.
The best fitness plan is one that you can most easily incorporate into your busy schedule. It must become an extension of you, not just another thing to add to your “to-do” list. Like brushing your teeth, try to make fitness a natural extension of your daily plan.
Kimberley Payne is a motivational speaker and author who writes to encourage women in both fitness and faith. Her goal is to inspire women to glorify God with healthier lifestyles. She is also the creator of the kids’ colouring book Adam’s Animals. Kimberley is happily married and lives with her husband in a village east of Toronto, Canada where she hikes and bikes.