Being Active Every Day
Most of us know that kids are supposed to get at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day. And 1 hour spent being active sounds like a pretty easy goal, doesn't it?
But as kids get older, increasing demands on their time can make getting that hour of exercise a challenge. Also, some kids get caught up watching TV, playing video games, and surfing the Internet. Even doing a lot of studying and reading, while important, can add to a lack of physical activity.
On top of that, during these years kids often come to a fork in the road with sports. Those who are athletic might end up increasing their time and commitment to sports, which is great for their physical fitness. But more casual athletes may lose interest and decide to quit teams and leagues. Unless they find replacement activities, their physical activity levels tend to go way down.
But being active is a key part of good health for all school-age kids. Exercise strengthens their muscles and bones and ensures that their bodies are capable of doing normal kid stuff, like lifting a backpack or running a race. It also helps control their weight and decreases their risk of chronic illnesses, such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
Keeping Kids Motivated
So how do you get kids motivated to be active, especially those who aren't natural athletes?
Kids can be fit even if they're not winning sports trophies. The key is finding activities they enjoy. The options are many — from inline skating and bike riding to tennis and swimming.
When kids find an activity that's fun, they'll do it a lot, get better at it, feel accomplished, and want to do it even more. Likewise, if they're pushed into activities they don't like, they're unlikely to want to participate and will end up frustrated and will feel like exercising is a chore.
Stick to Basics for 6- to 8-Year-Olds
Expose younger kids to a variety of activities, games, and sports. Keep the focus on fun. A mix of activities at home and at school is often ideal. And be sure to include some free time for kids to make their own decisions about what to do.
At this age, kids are still mastering basic physical skills, such as jumping, throwing, kicking, and catching. It will take a few more years before most can combine these skills the way many 11-year-olds can (for instance, being able to scoop up a baseball, run toward the base, and throw the ball — all in one fluid motion). So if your child is on a sports team, make sure you and the coaches are setting realistic expectations.
Such expectations are also important when it comes to how much kids can handle mentally. Younger kids often are not ready for the pressure of competition, nor can they grasp complex strategy. Look for teams, leagues, and classes that stress the basics and provide encouragement and praise for kids as they improve their skills.
Done correctly, team sports and other group activities can teach kids a lot about teamwork and good sportsmanship.
9- to 12-Year-Olds Are More Coordinated
Older school-age kids usually have mastered basic skills and can start enjoying the benefits of being more coordinated. That means a kid who likes basketball isn't wildly throwing the ball at the basket anymore, but is perfecting the free throw.
They're also better able to understand the rules. Parents of kids involved in team sports might want to talk about handling setbacks and losses, and remind kids that sports should still be fun even as competition heats up.
Whether it's soccer or ballet, if your child doesn't enjoy an activity or feels frustrated by failure, it may be time to switch to something else. That doesn't mean the time spent on those activities was wasted. Instead, ask which ones your child would like to try next. Achieving this transition smoothly, without making a child feel like a failure, can prevent negative feelings about sports and physical activity in general.
Help Kids Find Their Niche
When choosing activities, consider a child's interests, abilities, and body type. A bigger child might be suited for football because size is an advantage. A smaller child might succeed at baseball or might consider a non-team sport.
Also, consider temperament. A mild-mannered boy who might not be comfortable playing football may like the challenge of karate. Likewise, an active girl might not have the patience and control required for ballet, but is well-suited to a fast-paced activity, like soccer.
Personality traits and athletic ability combine to influence a child's attitude toward participation in sports and other physical activities. Which of these three types best describes your child?
Nonathletes: These kids may lack athletic ability, dislike physical activity, or both. By this age, kids are aware of these differences and some may have even been teased about them. The danger for them is not leaving one activity that didn't work out; it's abandoning all physical activity altogether.
Casual athletes: These kids are interested in being active but aren't star players, so are at risk of getting discouraged in a competitive athletic environment. Most kids fall into this category, but in a culture that is obsessed with winning, it's easy to overlook them as athletes. Encourage them to remain active even though they aren't top performers.
Athletes: These kids have athletic ability, are committed to a sport or activity, and are likely to ramp up practice time and intensity of competition. Some are happily settled in a sport or activity by the older school-age years. It's important to ensure that athletes manage schoolwork, get enough rest, and still enjoy the sport. Continue to let your child try out new things and enjoy a variety of physical activities.
Parents Can Make a Difference
Kids look to parents for guidance, support, and encouragement. It's very important to set a good example, so don't groan about your own exercise — make it a priority and look for chances to be physically active as a family.Back to Articles
Fitness and Your 6- to 12-Year-Old
School-age kids need physical activity to build strength, coordination, confidence, and to lay the groundwork for a healthy lifestyle.Read More
Motivating Kids to Be Active
Parents can help instill a love of activity and help kids make it a part of their everyday routine.Read More
What If I Don't Like Sports?
Sports can be challenging when you're new to them, but they also can be really fun. Take a second look at sports - and learn other ways to be active - in this article for kids.Read More
Nutrition & Fitness Center
Visit our nutrition and fitness center for teens to get information and advice on food, exercise, and sports.Read More
How to Compete in Sports
Sometimes sports competition can make kids feel pressure. If it's too much, a kid might not have as much fun as before. Find out what to do if this happens to you.Read More
Dealing With Stress In Sports
Winning is all that matters when you play sports, right? Not when that means you can't even enjoy the game. Read about how to handle sports pressure and competition.Read More
Healthy Habits for TV, Video Games, and the Internet
TV, interactive video games, and the Internet can be excellent sources of education and entertainment, but too much plugged-in time can have unhealthy side effects.Read More
Motivating Preschoolers to Be Active
A preschooler's desire to move, move, move makes this a great time to encourage fitness habits that can last a lifetime.Read More
Nutrition & Fitness Center
You know the importance of exercising and eating nutritious foods, but do you know how to raise a healthy and active child? Get practical advice and tips.Read More
Feeding Your Child Athlete
All kids need to eat balanced meals and have a healthy diet. But should that balance change for kids who play on a sports team or work out?Read More
Nutrition & Fitness Center
Want to know more about eating right and being active? This is the place!Read More
Kids and Exercise
Besides enjoying the health benefits of regular exercise, kids who are physically fit are better able to handle physical and emotional challenges.Read More
Be a Fit Kid
A lot of people talk about fit kids, but how do you become one? Here are five rules to live by, if you want to eat right, be active, and keep a healthy weight.Read More
Why Exercise Is Wise
Exercise can help keep a kid's body fit and healthy. Learn more about what exercise can do for you in this article for kids.Read More
Easy Exercises for Teens
Finding it hard to fit in fitness? Try these simple exercises for teens.Read More
Is working out with weights safe for teens? The best way to build muscle tone and definition is to combine aerobic and flexibility exercises with the right kind of strength training.Read More
Fitness for Kids Who Don't Like Sports
Some kids aren't natural athletes and they may say they just don't like sports. What then?Read More