Kids and Fitness

May 13, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

A daily activity like walking to school can increase kids` physical fitness. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
A daily activity like walking to school can increase kids` physical fitness. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Because of today’s technological advances, fewer and fewer children are moving or eating well. We can’t simply hope that our children will eventually figure out how. We must teach them.

For much of my adult life, I have carried some extreme notions about eating habits. I would feel guilty if I ate too much, or if I ate something I shouldn’t have.

As a mother of two daughters, I did not want to pass these notions on to them. I wanted to educate them about healthy eating and fitness habits without making them neurotic. Therefore, I allowed treats in moderation and offered a variety of choices.

I encouraged them to try new things more then once before forming an opinion about it. I wanted them to be well-educated so that they would have the power to make healthy choices throughout their lives.

There are many great ways to instill healthy eating and fitness habits into your children’s lives. For starters, educate yourself if you haven’t already. Learn how to prepare tasty vegetables and understand the effects food has on us.

Explain the things you learned to your children. Let them know if a food is good for their skin, or eyes, or hair, if a food is energizing or will make them sleepy. Also let them know that if they eat too much of something, it may give them a bellyache or a toothache.

In the Kitchen

Get kids passionate about food by letting them help in the kitchen. Give them small tasks like spinning the lettuce, pealing the carrots and cucumbers, and washing the fruit. Let them watch you as you cut up the vegetables. Cut with care. They will learn how to respect food by observing your skills.

Talk your kids through each step as you prepare the food, and tell them about the different ingredients you are working with, and their health benefits. Have them engaged in the kitchen regularly so that their interest will gradually and consistently build.

Explain the different flavors that will be in each dish and ask them to taste it to see if they can detect the variety of ingredients you included in the dish.

In Their Bodies

There are many ways to help kids get passionate about fitness. One way is by letting them hang out with you while you work out. They will watch you, and if you are doing a movement-based workout at home (as opposed to working out on equipment) let them copy your movements.

Take a few minutes at the end of each of your workouts to correct them. For example, if you are doing squats and they copy you, watch them to see how they do. Make sure that their feet are aligned with each other, their knees are pointing in the same direction as their feet, and that their bum is reaching back past their heels.

Give the children one tip during each workout to help them. If you tell them to focus on too much, they won’t get it and may feel discouraged. However, they do need to be taught. They won’t know how to do something well until you teach them.

Go out for walks with your kids. If they are slower than you, and you want to speed walk, have them run ahead to a certain point and wait for you while you speed walk toward them. If you have more than one child, have them race each other to that point.

If you have a big lawn, field, or track nearby, go there with your kids. Run, skip, hop, lunge, and sashay around the space. Each of you can take turns choosing what to do next. Not only is it fun, but you’ll also find that you’ll get a great workout out of it.

Making exercise fun encourages children to stick with it, but remember, they need guidance too. Make sure to take the time to watch them a bit and give them a few pointers on each movement because without being taught, they won’t necessarily know how to do the movement well.

Fun Family Workout

On a lawn, track, or soccer field, choose three points to run to. The first point is the shortest distance away, the next will be a little further, and the last is across the field. Run to the first point and touch the ground, and then run back. Run to the second point and then run back, and finish by running to the final point and back. Repeat this three or four times.

Next, crawl like a bear, on your hands and feet across the field. As you crawl, imagine you must crawl under a low brush. Do not scrape your back on it. Return to the starting position.

Next, face your child and hold his or her hand as you sashay across the field and back.

This workout is fun and challenging. It is also a great way to bond with your kids. They do not have to do the movements perfectly. It should be fun for them if you are encouraging. If you are too critical or negative about it, then they may not want to do it, so be sure to be the happy coach, not the grumpy one.

Try it one evening instead of sitting in front of the TV. None of you will regret it!

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