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How to Get Children Motivated to Exercise: Expert Tips

tips-child-exercise-motivationHow do you get kids off the couch and moving? Make it fun, say our experts. Here are tips from personal trainers, doctors and others on how to get your children motivated to exercise.


“Fun things like obstacle courses that the kids can create keeps them involved and interested. Allow them to make up new games that incorporate their toys and surroundings. If they want to time themselves, that can be fun, too, so they can see their own improvement.”
—Susan J. Hewlings, Ph.D., R.D., C.S.S.D., registered dietitian; assistant professor, Stetson University , DeLand, Fla.

"Take a grown man who would never spend three hours on the treadmill but who will drop everything to walk 18 holes of golf with his friends. The same holds true for kids! Make exercise a team activity shared with family and friends. If mom and dad enjoy doing it and it’s fun, you can bet the kids will join in."
—David R. Donnersberger Jr., M.D., J.D., F.C.L.M., internist, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago

“When parents say things like, ‘I was so bad at dinner last night that I’ll have to spend an extra hour at the gym,’ children learn that exercise is punishment for eating. Instead, show your children that moving your body is fun and feels good.”
Michelle May, M.D., family physician; founder, Am I Hungry?

“Getting the parents off the couch will get the children off the couch, too! If a child needs to walk around the block for exercise, his parent should go, too! If a child should not eat dessert, then neither should his parents! Until we are able to make parents appreciate their role in their children’s obesity, I worry about the success we will garner with their children.”
—Charlotte Cowan, M.D., founder, The Hippocratic Press (medical children’s books)

newsletter-graphic“Leave behind the toys with bells and whistles and instead buy active toys—balls and push/pull toys for crawlers; foot-propelled ride-on trucks and trikes for toddlers; trampoline with safety net, bicycle with helmet and roller skates with pads for elementary age and up. Don’t forget the all-time favorite and inexpensive toy—the Hula Hoop! For videogame-loving teens, buy a dance video game (Dance Dance Revolution ) with two dance pads. This makes it more fun—to do in unison with a pal. … If your family loves watching sports on TV, get more into the game by playing it during commercials. It makes you feel closer to the excitement of the game but also helps burn off the game snacks you’re munching on!”
Bridget Swinney, M.S., R.D., author,
Baby Bites

Last updated and/or approved: May 2010. These tips originally appeared in various issues of the former print magazine. Bios are current as of the dates of the original issues. This article is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.


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