The sports medicine specialists at our Toronto physiotherapy and chiropractic clinics field many different kinds of questions about exercise, from amateur fitness to professional level training. Sometimes, that advice isn’t just for our clients – it’s about their families too. Many parents have questions about their kids.
- How do I get my kids interested in fitness early in life?
Fitness and the path to lifelong good health is one of the best gifts a parent can give. Here’s a look at some ideas on how to do that.
1. Be the example you want them to model
It’s not enough to point to videos or TV personalities – or even their favourite cartoon superheroes – for examples on the value of fitness. They’re looking at the people they see everyday to model the behaviour they’ll follow, and that includes making fitness part of their lifestyle.
- Make fitness a daily habit – an ordinary part of every day.
- Kids under the age of six should be encouraged to enjoy unstructured, natural activities like running, skipping, jumping.
- From age 6 to 17, make sure they get at least one hour of activity, five days a week.
- Use every opportunity to include more activity, such as walking instead of driving when you can.
2. Join a group
At any age, we tend to follow fitness programs that are social more than solitary activity. That can mean getting the whole family involved, or inviting friends to a group hike or game of soccer.
- Group lessons are an alternative to organized sports that lets kids learn and stay activity in a social environment.
3. Make it fun
Turning fitness into a chore is a mistake. Insisting on specific activities that kids may not be very enthusiastic about is one thing, but nowadays, fitness also has a lot of competition from things like video games and TV.
- Ideally, you want fitness to be one of their first choices – not the one leftover when nothing else is available;
- Limiting screen time can prove crucial – why not organize their time early between activities, turning fitness into daily/weekly/seasonal rituals they’ll treasure?
4. Customize it for your kids
Every child is different, and has their own personality. It's natural for parents to want to pass along their own passions, but it's important to make it about the child, and what suits them best.
- Do they prefer team sports, or individual activities like swimming or martial arts?
- Do they enjoy competition, and handle the roller coaster of winning and losing? Everyone should know how to deal with failures, but not everyone is suited to building that into their chosen activities.
- You can introduce the idea of competition as a motivator – who can do the most sit-ups this week? Be sure that whoever is competing is on an equal footing.
5. Give them gifts that promote activity
There are many gifts that can help promote activity for kids, from the latest gear for their favourite sport to trendy sports shoes.
- Make it into something they'll really want to receive;
- You're essentially building in a reward for physical activity.
6. Plan vacations with a view to active fun
Vacations with the kids can be challenging. Focusing the fun around an activity everyone can enjoy answers the question of what everyone will do for the duration, and leaves kids with a sense of adventure an a welcome break from the everyday.
- It can be as exotic as a surfing vacation in Zanzibar, or a budget-friendly hiking jaunt not too far from home;
- Learning a new activity can be part of the plan, like a skiing vacation with lessons.
7. Above all, keep it positive
They key to instilling a lifelong love of fitness is to make it a positive experience, and one they'll maintain out of preference and not just because someone's nagging them.
- Especially with younger children, keep it playful before you introduce the idea of competition;
- Be sure to offer lots of positive feedback, both on progress and participation.
Multiple studies suggest that keeping your kids active can also boost their grades at school. It's a win-win-win situation when you can start their fitness habit as early as you can.
If you have any questions about fitness and your family, don’t hesitate to contact one of our Toronto physiotherapy and chiropractic today for a consultation.