Encouraging exercise in non-athletically inclined kids can be a challenge, but there are many ways to make physical activity enjoyable and accessible.
30 Ideas to Help Motivate and Engage Non-Athletically Inclined Kids in Exercise:
- Lead by example: Be an active role model and participate in regular physical activity yourself.
- Make it fun: Incorporate games, challenges, and playful activities to make exercise enjoyable.
- Keep it age-appropriate: Choose activities that are suitable for your child’s age and skill level.
- Create a routine: Establish a consistent schedule for physical activity to develop a habit.
- Break it up: Encourage short bursts of exercise throughout the day instead of one long session.
- Choose their interests: Let children participate in activities they enjoy, such as dancing, martial arts, swimming, or biking.
- Involve friends: Encourage group activities and invite friends to join in the fun.
- Set goals: Help children set achievable goals, whether it’s increasing the number of jumping jacks or running for a longer distance.
- Track progress: Keep a record of their physical activity and celebrate milestones along the way.
- Offer rewards: Provide incentives like stickers, small prizes, or extra screen time for completing exercise sessions.
- Play active video games: Choose games that require physical movement, such as dance or sports games.
- Use pedometers or fitness trackers: Let children monitor their steps or activity levels to make it more engaging.
- Explore nature: Go for hikes, nature walks, or explore local parks to combine exercise with outdoor exploration.
- Make household chores active: Turn cleaning into a physical activity by dancing while vacuuming or racing to pick up toys.
- Incorporate active transportation: Encourage walking or biking to school or nearby places instead of driving.
- Family fitness time: Plan regular family activities like hiking, biking, or playing sports together.
- Support team sports: Enroll children in community sports leagues where they can learn new skills and make friends.
- Introduce martial arts: Martial arts classes can be a great way to build strength, discipline, and confidence.
- Offer choices: Allow children to choose between different activities to find something they genuinely enjoy.
- Host a backyard Olympics: Organize fun mini-Olympic games with various physical challenges.
- Dance parties: Have spontaneous dance parties at home where everyone can groove to their favorite tunes.
- Active breaks: Encourage short exercise breaks during homework or screen time to refresh their minds.
- Explore water activities: Swimming, water aerobics, or playing in the pool can be a refreshing and enjoyable form of exercise. (Read our blog about swimming safety and children here.)
- Yoga for kids: Introduce child-friendly yoga poses and breathing exercises to promote flexibility and relaxation.
- Create obstacle courses: Set up obstacle courses in the backyard or living room to encourage physical activity and problem-solving skills.
- Join a community program: Check if there are local community programs or classes specifically designed for non-athletic children.
- Make it social: Organize playdates or group activities that involve physical movement and interaction.
- Set up a home gym: Create a small exercise area at home with jump ropes, resistance bands, and other age-appropriate exercise equipment.
- Offer variety: Rotate between different activities to keep it interesting and prevent boredom.
- Celebrate achievements: Praise your child’s effort, improvement, and dedication to their physical activity endeavors.
Remember to be patient, supportive, and focus on the enjoyment of physical activity rather than performance. With time and consistent effort, your non-athletically inclined kids can develop a lifelong love for exercise.
And why should you encourage your non-athletically inclined kids (or any children) to exercise? Regular exercise offers numerous health benefits for children (and for people of all ages).
13 Exercise Benefits for Non-Athletically Inclined Kids and All Kids
- Physical fitness: Exercise improves cardiovascular fitness, builds strong muscles and bones, and enhances overall physical strength and endurance, says the Centers for Disease Control.
- Weight management: Regular physical activity helps children maintain a healthy weight and reduces the risk of obesity, which is associated with various health issues, according to Nemours KidsHealth.
- Bone health: Weight-bearing exercises, such as running or jumping, promote bone density and strength, reducing the risk of osteoporosis later in life.
- Motor skills development: Physical activity enhances gross motor skills, coordination, balance, and fine motor skills, contributing to better physical control and proficiency in activities of daily living.
- Mental and emotional well-being: Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood elevators. Exercise also helps reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, boosts self-esteem, and promotes overall mental well-being.
- Cognitive development: According to the American Psychology Association, research suggests that regular exercise can enhance cognitive function, attention span, memory, and academic performance in children.
- Improved sleep: Physical activity promotes better quality sleep, which is essential for growth, development, and overall health.
- Reduced risk of chronic diseases: Regular exercise in childhood can lower the risk of developing chronic conditions later in life, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
- Social skills and teamwork: Participating in group activities, team sports, or exercise classes fosters social interaction, cooperation, teamwork, and the development of valuable social skills.
- Discipline and goal-setting: Engaging in regular exercise teaches children discipline, goal-setting, and perseverance as they work towards achieving personal fitness goals.
- Improved concentration: Physical activity has been shown to enhance concentration and focus, leading to better academic performance and cognitive abilities.
- Reduced stress: Exercise helps children manage stress by providing an outlet for energy, reducing tension, and promoting relaxation.
- Healthy habits for life: Encouraging exercise in childhood promotes the establishment of healthy habits that can be carried into adulthood, leading to a healthier lifestyle overall.
It is important to note that children should engage in age-appropriate and safe activities under adult supervision. Consulting with a healthcare professional or pediatrician can provide additional guidance tailored to the specific needs and abilities of the child.