Motivating Your Kids to Exercise


Your kids may get some exercise at recess time, but most children still aren’t active enough. The American Psychological Association reports that only 30 percent of children 6 to 17 years old got at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise every day, but 20 minutes still falls significantly below national standards. The best way to boost your kids’ exercise quotient is to encourage active play and model a fit lifestyle.

Know The Standards

Easy Outdoor Space DomePreschoolers need about two hours of physical activity per day, half of which can be free play rather than structured physical activity, according to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. Children 6 and older need to get in at least one hour of physical activity every day, most of which should be moderate to vigorous aerobic activity. Aerobic activity is exercise that gets the heart pumping. Most kids also need to engage in bone- and muscle-strengthening exercises three or more days per week, but this doesn’t mean they need to be lifting weights at a gym. Kid-friendly activities such as jumping rope and swinging on the monkey bars are sufficient.

Limit Sedentary Time

Little Tikes TotSports T-Ball Set

Preschoolers shouldn’t be inactive for more than about one hour at a time and school-aged kids shouldn’t be sedentary for more than about two hours at a time. However, the average child watches about three hours of television and spends approximately five-and-a-half hours in front of screens such as the computer monitor and television every day, according to the Nemours Foundation. By nature, kids are generally more active than adults when they aren’t sitting in front of a screen. The best way to promote physical activity in your kids is to limit their daily screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that you avoid exposing your child to any television if he is under 2 years old and recommends limiting your child’s screen time to about one to two hours per day if he is over age 2.

Appeal to Each Child’s Interests

Royalbaby Kids Bikes

Your kids may not ever realize that they’re exercising if they’re just having fun playing. For example, if one of your kids likes to spend her daily screen time playing video games, invest in active games such as dance games and other games she can control with whole-body movements. Also take steps to encourage outdoor play by providing your kids with outdoors-only toys and equipment such as bicycles, skates, balls, skateboards, jump ropes, kites, yo-yos, and a swing set. Even the outdoor toys you wouldn’t normally associate with exercise encourages your kids to be more active than sedentary screen time will. For example, your child will be moving his arms, bending down and generally moving his body around when he’s drawing large pictures with sidewalk chalk. He may even use the chalk to make a hopscotch design or draw lines for a game of four square. Keep in mind that kids’ physical activity can be broken up into bursts of 15 minutes.


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