How to establish fitness goals for kids
Physical activity benefits people of all ages, including kids. Despite widespread recognition of the positive impact physical activity has on children, many kids are not getting enough exercise. In an analysis of data collected as part of the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that less than one in four children between the ages of six and 17 participates in 60 minutes of physical activity per day.
When established in childhood and adolescence, good habits like exercising regularly can set young people up for a long, healthy life. Perhaps in recognition of that, parents often look for ways to promote physical activity to their youngsters. Setting fitness goals is one way to help young people exercise more, and the following are a handful of strategies parents can try as they seek to promote a love of physical activity in their children.
- Include fun activities in a fitness plan. Adults recognize the importance of planning when aspiring to achieve certain goals, and a plan can be just as integral to getting kids to be more physically active. When devising a fitness plan, parents should be sure to include activities kids find fun. Just because Dad liked playing baseball doesn’t mean his children will. Identify activities that kids enjoy, whether it’s hiking or cycling or playing an organized sport, and include that in the fitness plan.
- Involve kids’ friends. Parents often make exercising a family affair, but a 2015 study led by a researcher affiliated with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center found that children who exercised with friends were far less likely to cite barriers such as lack of enjoyment or lack of energy as reasons for not exercising. In essence, kids are more inspired to exercise with friends than they are with family members. When establishing fitness goals for kids, parents can work with other parents so kids can pursue those goals together, increasing the chances that those pursuits will be successful.
- Set aside time to exercise each day. Physical activity should be part of everyone’s daily routine, and kids are no exception. Such activity does not need to be a grueling workout, and indeed children’s bodies will need time to recover after especially strenuous exercise. But setting aside time each day to be physically active is a good way to ensure kids’ lifestyles are not predominantly sedentary.
- Make the goals attainable. Parents may know before kids begin exercising or notice shortly after they start being more physically active how much kids can reasonably handle. The YMCA notes that’s an important factor to consider, as fitness goals should be attainable so anyone adjusting to a new regimen, even kids, stays motivated. A child’s pediatrician can advise on how much exercise youngsters should get each day, and parents can help kids gradually reach that point by setting challenging but attainable goals.
Regular physical activity can benefit kids for the rest of their lives. Parents can pitch in by embracing various strategies to help kids establish attainable goals that make fitness fun.
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