How To Get Your Kids To Love Exercise

Kids should learn to love fitness from an early age. This means instilling in them a passion for exercise and eating healthy. It will be up to you to do that and movement education specialist Rae Pica notes how early childhood should include lots of fitness activities as it is “the best time to establish good habits so that kids seek and enjoy exercise instead of avoiding it.” Once you get your kids to love fitness, they will reap the benefits much earlier. The most obvious benefit is a healthier body. But there is more, as fitness allows for a more holistic development.

Additionally, exercise and good general fitness helps improve their mental health. Tonje Zahl from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that “Physical activity, and particularly moderate-to-vigorous physical activity [MVPA], has a positive effect on reducing future depressive symptoms in middle childhood.” Clinical psychologist Dr. Christina Hibbert agrees with Zahl’s findings. She notes how exercise moves both the body and mind, thus “moving excess mental energy that would otherwise lead to behavioral issues and disruption.” These findings have far-reaching implications, as mental health also plays a central role in how a child learns. A long form post by Maryville University on psychology and education details how psychologists have found strong correlations between mental health and learning success. Poor mental health will drastically affect their performance in school, which will have a knock-on effect as they grow older. With exercise having such an impact on mental health it is clear why it is so important for kids to learn to love it as early as possible. Especially during their time in school as this will help them build habits that they will adopt for the rest of the lives.

So, how can parents teach their kids to love fitness?

As parents you will be the ones to instill the importance fitness will play in their lives. Why, you ask? In ‘7 Ways to Raise Kids Who Love to Exercise’ published by Men’s Journal, Dr. Daniel Hatfield of Active Schools Acceleration Project within ChildObesity180 notes, “Parents play a critical role in terms of inspiring healthy habits in their kids and [in] laying a foundation for healthy behaviors that last a lifetime.” In other words, your kids are always watching you and look to you for good examples on how to behave. This means that what they see you do, they are likely to replicate.

There are many ways to get your children active as we showed in our ‘Fun Ways to Spend Time with Your Kids’ post. Martial arts is an excellent choice, and one we highly recommend. There are other options, but the key is finding which of these your kids find interesting. It is also important to keep in mind that you must not force your kids to exercise. What you can do instead is play with them. Child fitness expert Steve Ettinger points out in the Men's Journal article that kids mostly like to be active, but “might not like to exercise in the traditional sense.” They will, however, enjoy playing games. Always think of ways to pique their interest. And, for example, if they show an interest in martial arts, steer them in the right direction. Just as important, participate in these endeavors, too. Make everything a family affair, and it will become just as much a bonding experience as an activity to stay fit.

That being said, being a parent with a background in martial arts is an advantage. You are active to begin with, and you probably already have the discipline to live a healthy lifestyle. The problem here is that you might have a tendency to be pushy. Yes, you want your kids to love fitness, but don't force it. Let that love come organically. To this end, the Mayo Clinic suggest that you should be positive and encouraging. "Emphasize effort, improvement and enjoyment over winning or personal performance." Be there every step of the way and hold their hand in this fitness journey. In time they will be able to go at it on their own.


Article specially written for FamilyMAA.Com

By: Anna Luna

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