The rise of the digital era means that young people have access to smartphones and electronic devices from an ever-earlier age, but their reliance on this technology often comes at a price.
Studies show that youngsters devote over seven hours each day to staring at a screen, whether that be a TV screen, tablet or phone. This means that exercise often takes a back seat, where researchers claim that just one in every three children get adequate physical activity daily.
So, how do you get kids off their screens and interested in exercise? It’s not always easy, but it’s certainly not impossible. Here are some strategies worth trying.
Lead by example
It’s unfair to nag at kids to get off their phones and go outdoors if you’re glued to tech devices yourself. If you want to get them interested in exercise, lead by example and be a positive role model. If you incorporate exercise into your life and show them that it’s both fun and healthy, youngsters are more likely to follow suit.
Try different activities
Not every child is going to be sporty, but that doesn’t mean to say they shouldn’t take an active interest in getting fit. Being active from an early age can reduce the risk of obesity and many health problems later on in life, including cancer, so highlight how important it is to children to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
If your child doesn’t like a particular activity, don’t force them into it. Try out others until they find an exercise they enjoy. It doesn’t even need to be organised sports. Get them rollerblading or on a scooter, or visit a soft play or trampoline park, and they’ll soon see that exercise is fun.
Use exercise as a reward
Forcing your child to do exercise will only make them hate it even more, but using it as a reward system could motivate them to get active. For example, only let your child play videos or go on their phone after they’ve taken the dog for a walk.
When encouraging children to exercise, give them activities that are suitable for their age and abilities. A five-year-old might quickly get frustrated with a game of tennis if they haven’t yet mastered the skills to hit a ball, but they’d probably be happy just playing with a ball and throwing it about. Very young children also have a short attention span, so avoid playing active games that are long and complicated otherwise they’ll become bored very quickly.
Sometimes children don’t feel like exercising because they don’t have anyone to do it with. If that’s the case, why not invite their friends over and encourage them to have a kick around in the garden? Or, suggest they organise a bike ride or visit a skate park. Alternatively, get the family involved and organise croquet in the garden or head to the park for a game of rounders, followed by a picnic.
Don’t mention exercise
Sometimes the word exercise is enough to put fear into youngsters who loathe the thought of having to do sports. Instead, incorporate activities into their routines that happily count as exercise, such as tidying their room or walking to the shops. You could even get them doing calorie-burning jobs around the house, such as washing the car or mowing the lawn, for pocket money.
Encourage a routine
Once you’ve managed to prise the kids off the sofa and outside for some active pursuits, try to make it a regular occurrence. Schedule activities at times of the week that are most convenient for them, so they’re less likely to find excuses to bail out.