What You Need To Tell Your Kids About Exercise

In today’s world of 10+ hours of screen time, it’s more difficult than ever to get your kids to exercise. But even when they are told they need to exercise, they may not be getting the proper message. According to a recent Iowa State study, which looked at more than 200,000 students, barely one in eight kids achieved a healthy score as it relates to aerobic capacity, BMI, and upper body strength. The problem? Many kids believe exercise is just for athletes or to past a standardized fitness test, or because we as adults, parents, and teachers tell them it’s good for them. So what do we do to get them to exercise more?

The first task is to make it about moving, not exercise alone. Not all kids are athletes, and many won’t find traditional exercise or fitness tests enjoyable. Ask a kid to do as many push-ups as they can in a minute, and only the kids that do well are the naturally strong type. But, if you watch a group of kids on a trampoline, you’ll see that they love to move. So help them discover what movements they enjoy. Expose them when they are young to as many things as they want to, remembering to not overdue it and make them burnout on any type of activity.

All kids have the potential to be good at something. The problem in fitness is that we limit exercise to the simple categories of cardio, weights, and sports. Some kids are athletes, some are artists, and some are bookworms. There are physical activities for all of them. Athletes can play football and basketball. Artists can dance and do martial arts. Bookworms can use the power of their minds to move their body through adventure and strategy-based physical activities (think triathlons, adventure racing, or Brazilian jiu jitsu, etc.) Ultimately, kids need to be encouraged to customize their own best way of moving, rather than being told to exercise for the sake of exercise. 

I didn’t begin lifting weights until I was going into my freshman year of high school. It just wasn’t a thing kids did in the late 90’s. The myth that weight lifting would stunt growth was still around. That myth is a thing of the past now. But regardless of opinion, science shows that kids who lift weights and/or perform resistance activities like jumping actually have better bone density than those who don’t. Furthermore, resistance training early may even help kids lower their risk of chronic pain the future. Kids should lift at all ages but before doing so, they should also be taught proper form and safety in preparation.

 

The short story here is that kids who exercise have greater attention spans, faster cognitive processing speeds, and better performance on tests than kids who don’t exercise. Although these aren’t the only benefits they reap. They’ll have a better self-image, strong confidence, and the keys to finding a passion and talent to unlocking a lasting success with movement and exercise. So, when it comes to movement and exercise, let them find what they love to do, not what we feel they should do.  



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