The Hour of Power
Sixty minutes — that's how much physical activity kids should get each day. But as kids get older, increasing demands on their time can make getting a full hour of exercise a challenge. And some kids get caught up in sedentary pursuits like watching TV and surfing the Internet. Even doing a lot of studying and reading, while important, can contribute to inadequate physical activity.
Being active is a key component of good health for all school-age kids. It will strengthen their muscles and bones and ensure that their bodies are capable of doing normal kid stuff, like lifting a backpack or running a race. It also will help control their weight and decrease their risk of chronic illnesses,such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
So how do you get kids motivated to be active, especially those who aren't natural athletes?
Kids can be fit even if they're not winning sports trophies. The key is finding activities they enjoy. The options are many — from bike riding to tennis and swimming.
When kids find an activity that's fun, they'll do it a lot, get better at it, feel accomplished, and want to do it even more. Likewise, if they're pushed into activities they don't like, they're unlikely to want to participate and will end up feeling frustrated.
Keep to the Basics for 6- to 8-Year-Olds
Expose younger kids to a variety of activities, games, and sports. Keep the focus on fun. A mix of activities at home and at school is often ideal, and be sure to include some free time for kids to make their own decisions about what to do.
9- to 12-Year-Olds Are More Coordinated
Older school-age kids usually have mastered basic skills and can start enjoying the benefits of being more coordinated. That means a kid who likes basketball isn't wildly throwing the ball at the basket anymore, but is perfecting the free throw.
They're also better able to understand the rules. Parents of kids involved in team sports might want to talk about handling setbacks and losses, and remind kids that sports should still be fun even as competition heats up.
Help Kids Find Their Niche
When choosing activities, consider a child's interests, abilities, and body type. A bigger child might be suited for football because size is an advantage. A smaller child might succeed at baseball or might consider a non-team sport.
Also, consider temperament. A mild-mannered boy who might not be comfortable playing football may like the challenge of karate. Likewise, an active girl might not have the patience and control required for dance, but is well-suited to a more fast-paced activity, like soccer.
Personality traits and athletic ability combine to influence a child's attitude toward participation in sports and other physical activities.
Parents Can Make a Difference
No matter what their fitness personalities, kids look to parents for guidance, support, and encouragement. And it's important to set a good example, so don't groan about your own exercise — make it a priority and look for chances to be physically active as a family.