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Tips for Encouraging Reluctant Children to Exercise

July 19, 2013

The American Heart Association offers tips for parents who want to raise heart-healthy kids. At Ohio Medical Group, we treat patients of all ages but we know that some of the young people we see can avoid problems later in life if they have parental guidance on healthy habits when they are young.

children exercising graphicSome children are born athletes; others are not very interested in physical activity and parents may be hesitant to force them to participate in sports or other physical activities. Plus, sometimes kids who are not interested in being physically active have other interests so parents encourage them to pursue those. This is fine, but children still need to get at least a minimal amount of physical activity in order to avoid obesity and maintain muscle.

In "Get Non-Athletes to be Physically Active," The American Heart Association offers suggestions for parents:

"Don't make exercise a punishment."

Making a child go outside and play seems to make sense if you really can't get them to engage in any physical activity…except that you don't really know how much exercise your child is getting unless you follow him or her around. Also, being made to go outside can make your child view exercise in a negative way.

The American Heart Association suggests: "Try using physical activity to counter something your child doesn’t want to do. For instance, make it the routine that your child can ride a bike for 30 minutes before starting homework after school. Your child will beg for 20 more minutes outside just to put off the homework!"

"Find an activity they love."

Team sports can be tough for some kids but there are so many other ways to be active. Keep introducing activities (swimming, dancing, walking, skateboarding) until you find one your child really enjoys.

"Build confidence."

You can practice with your child to build his or her confidence. Even if your child doesn't ever participate in team sports, having your encouragement will change his or her attitude towards exercise and physical activity.