4 Tips for Getting Your Kids to Exercise on School Days
By Brian Acton
Children need exercise for a number of reasons: to build muscle and reduce the risk of injuries, to maintain a healthy weight, to keep bones strong, to enhance self esteem and boost energy levels, and much more. The CDC recommends that school age kids get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day to reap the benefits of physical exercise.
But during the school week, squeezing in an hour of exercise between classes, homework, and family time can seem challenging. And if your child’s school doesn’t have a daily recess or gym class, getting your kids the recommended amount of exercise can be even more difficult.
Use these tips to start encouraging your kids to get exercise during the school week.
- Make it a Family Affair
If Mom and Dad are constantly working on their laptops or parked on the couch in the evenings, it can be hard to motivate kids to exercise. By participating in physical activities as a family, you can ensure your kids are staying active and
get your own daily dose of exercise. School night activities may include walking the dogs, kicking around a soccer ball, or just playing chase in the backyard. If you make family exercise a priority on school nights, you’ll be helping your kids get their recommended active time.
- Limit Screen Time
Modern kids have access to screens at home, school, and in their pocket. When kids already have a constant source of information and entertainment, prioritizing exercise can take a backseat. That’s why it’s important to set limits on screen time for your kids. You can have general rules for common area items, like televisions and the family computer. For gadgets like phones and tablets, you can use parental controls to limit screen time. The motivation to occupy the mind and body with exercise will be stronger when there are no screens to fall back on.
- Encourage Extramural Exercise
To get the recommended dose of exercise, kids may need to go above and beyond their recess or gym class. Extramural exercise can take many forms, so try to find an activity your kids are motivated to participate in.
Team sports will require your child to get regular exercise after school as part of practice and games. Team sports convey benefits including physical activity, confidence building, and teamwork skills. Even if your child isn’t interested in baseball, football, or soccer, they can join the swim team, track team, or other sports that are more focused on individual accomplishments.
If your child isn’t interested in the playing field, there are many other interests they can pursue. These include hiking, golf, gardening, and other hobbies that get them exercising after school. It may take some trial and error before you find the right activity for your child, so be patient.
- Encourage Unstructured Play
Unstructured play is important to a child’s development, and will help them get exercise while making social connections and flexing their creative muscles. Take your kids to the playground or the park, and set up unstructured playdates with other families. This will encourage your kids to explore open spaces, create games based on what’s available, and develop social connections. During unstructured play, the exercise will sneak in while your kids aren’t looking!