"Boy, you’ve got some active kids,"
Sounds like a reasonable statement on the face of it. But the truth is all kids are essentially active. Unless a severe physical disability completely keeps a child from moving, kids’ natural inclination is to move. Notice how they bounce off the walls, tear up the living room, and can’t seem to just sit still. (Jeez, would you just sit still for a moment!!)
It’s our culture that makes them inactive. We plop them down in front of a tv or video game just to get a little respite. I certainly have turned to these "babysitters" plenty when I couldn’t fathom managing two little whirlwinds and my household tasks.
On top of this we feed them nutrient-poor, sugar-laden food that just burns out their energy.
My husband observed this when he volunteered for our kids’ school’s field day – a half-day of fun athletic activities at the end of the year. On the first day he volunteered, it was all K-4 graders. He came home chuckling about all the little athletes churning up the turf.
But the second day he came home in shock. On the second day, when it was 4-8 graders, he reported how few of the kids seemed to want to move at all. Especially girls. He said that there were maybe two kids in each class who seemed to like running.
For him it was a dramatic demonstration of how all kids under a certain age, with few exceptions, enjoyed moving their bodies. But how within a few years, they stopped moving. Some of it was because they were getting more caught up in electronics. Some of it was because it was less cool to play tag or jump rope at recess.
But most of all it was because they had just stopped moving and had lost touch with that part of them that delighted in jumping, ducking, dodging and racing.
So when it comes down to it, kids don’t really need much motivation to get moving. If you can keep this momentum they develop when they start to roll over, then wiggle, crawl and then walk, you’ve got a naturally active child.
But even for kids who have been well-trained by us to sit rather than move, you can break these bad habits and uncover that natural inclination to want to move. And this goes for us grown-up kids as well!
The key to undoing these bad habits is:
- Think small. Make it possible to break out of them by taking small steps at first. Don’t set your sights too high at first if you’ve all been moving too little. Take a short walk as a family. Put on some music and dance for half an hour. Kick the soccer ball around for just 20 minutes.
- Start giving yourselves the right exercise food. Sugar is like a tranquilizer dart. It makes it almost impossible to move. When you start to fuel up with the right nutrition for exercising, you’ll find more energy to move.
- Savor the experience. After you’ve moved around a bit, talk about it. Laugh at some funny moves. Take some pictures. Write a collective journal. And really revel in some of the good feeling you’ve gained after you’ve done a little moving around. Start to notice how it makes your body feel – tired but in a good way. How your mind feels – more relaxed. And how you feel a little closer having done something together. And encourage your kids to notice this too.
- Be consistent. It took years to build up the habit of sitting in front of a screen without getting up and jumping. It will take time to unlearn this. Keep at it day by day. Week by week. A little bit at a time.
For more ideas about how to motivate yourselves to exercise, check out my article on motivation.
The wonderful thing is that while exercise may first seem like a chore, it will eventually feel like an absolute necessity for all of you. I guarantee it. You and your family will start to crave getting a little activity in.
Sure there will always be those days when it seems so hard to get going. We get those, too. But when we can refer back to how good we feel mentally and physically, we’re able to get going.
And then we just do a little something – a game of badminton or a quick walk – to keep us moving