Inspiring movement for kids is simply based around getting them to buy in. We all need a reason to be motivated to workout. The key is to teach them to love the process and not just try to reach a goal. The reason to exercise needs to be intrinsic to make it sustainable.
We want to inspire a lifetime of movement and health from a young age so it becomes not just a habit but a tool they can use. It’s imperative to make fitness a positive experience children look forward to. The message has to be pure so movement will make them feel good and improve their daily attitude.
The American Academy of Pediatrics states: “Children and adolescents aged six and older need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, as well as at least a few days per week of bone and muscle strengthening exercises. Children younger than six need three hours of activity every day.”
It’s challenging to get kids moving with traditional methods and messaging around health and fitness. Examples include wording such as they need to have a healthy weight, reduce screen time and cut back on sugary drinks. These things may be true but they aren’t very inspiring. The key is to encourage the action we want them to do, not an intangible result they do not connect with.
Here are five ways to inspire a lifetime of movement for kids:
- Make movement an “US” experience: Move as a family or with other kids. We all need community and a human connection.
- Do not connect movement with the size of children’s bodies: If children feel like they are moving in order to lose weight or change the way their body looks, the movement gets associated with a sense of shame. We do not want to promote a lifelong connection with shame. Children’s bodies will change and they will likely gain some weight at some point in their life.
- Do not focus on their weight: If you ever felt yucky after getting on the scale then you know that kids will feel the same way. The health benefits that come from consistent exercise will happen despite their weight.
- Do not connect movement with food: They will love movement more if it has nothing to do with their relationship with food. Don’t make things complicated, just let them love it.
- Help them connect with their own body: Encourage them to take a moment after they move to check in with themselves. This is the reward they get for moving. Most of the time they will experience a positive feeling after movement. If they feel unpleasant after movement then this is a great time to open up conversation. Only they can decide what feels good in their body. Allow them to connect with this and trust it. This is how they start to build trust in themselves as people.
The most important thing is that movement brings joy. A connection with their own body can help them navigate their body’s needs and respond to it. The more connected they are the more responsive they will become in other areas of self-care and living healthier.