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Healthy Living: How to Encourage Exercise for Kids


Healthy Living Series: How to Encourage Exercise for Kids

This blog is part of a series of posts to help you cultivate healthy living for your family, and most importantly, for your child.

Encourage Exercise for Kids

Children love to exercise, and they need to exercise. Let’s face it, kids need daily physical activity to enhance their fitness, maintain good health, and live in a body weight that is right for them.

Lack of daily exercise for kids negatively impacts a child’s fitness level and may be a strong contributor to an unhealthy lifestyle, impacting overall health and wellness.  

Guidelines for Encouraging Exercise for Kids 

The Physical Prescription for Fitness 

Duration, intensity, and type of physical activity does matter.  While any movement is better than none, experts recommend at least 1 hour of physical activity per day, both from planned activity and free play.  

No longer is walking the dog adequate, experts want to see children sweaty, red-faced, and breathless for a period of time every day.  If you are relying on school, be aware that daily recess and physical education varies from school to school and may not be a significant contributor to your child’s daily activity level.

Nurture Fitness with Nature 

The number one predictor of physical activity in children is time spent outdoors.  Get outside as a family and encourage your child to play outside as often as possible.

Get Gear for Fitness 

Let your child pick out their own active wear, shoes and sports aids.  Whether an independent exerciser or part of an athletic team, children enjoy having gear that supports their activities.  Who doesn’t love running to music?  Or shooting baskets in the driveway? 

Having the right gear can rally excitement around being active and can promote movement.  For the teen, gym memberships, pedometers, and exercise groups/classes can be a positive motivator, as well. I’ve got some good fitness gear in my nutrition store–check it out!

Healthy Living Series: How to Encourage Exercise for Kids

Walk the Talk 

More than 40% of a child’s health is determined by his or her behavior.  That’s more than genetics, healthcare, or social influences.  You are your child’s behavior barometer—your child will do what you do.  So, go on, get moving!

Breaking down barriers 

Identify any road blocks that may get in the way of your family’s activity level, such as busy work schedules.  Find solutions, not excuses, for how to deal with these road blocks that will fit your unique family circumstances.

Be Tech Savvy 

If your child is having a difficult time giving up video games, try compromising with ones that allow more activity and interaction. Hands-on video games, TV exercise programs, and interactive websites can be the beginning of increased activity for your child.

Physical activity and fitness are necessary parts of healthy living and having a healthy future. Often, one avenue of activity is not the magic pill—it is a conglomeration of several efforts, each and every day.  

How are you helping your child be active every day?

Need to make sure you’re on the right track? Check out my checklist!

Send Me How to Nourish a Healthy Child Today!

It takes more than healthy food and exercise to raise a healthy child. Check out my special course for parents, called The Nourished Child Project for the “ingredients” to raising a healthy child!

Learn more!

The Nourished Child Project is an online program for parents to help them raise healthy, nourished kids, inside and out.


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  1. I’m a registered dietitian and mother of five. In my experience, kids don’t need to be “encouraged” to be physically active; they just need competing activities to be limited. We have purposely chosen NOT to enroll our children in organized sports from a young age (time and a place for everything, of course) because we find that kids are quite naturally active when given the opportunity. Screen time is kept to a minimum, and it never fails: they get bored and find ways to be active even inside in the middle of winter. One has to be willing to tolerate a certain amount of “ruckus” in the house, but we have found this to be much more sustainable for our family. We don’t spend hours in the car transporting kids to and from practices and games; we save money; we encourage sibling collaboration (and yes, sometimes rivalry!); I could go on. My six year old just came running up from the basement to tell me that they’d just taught the 2 year old to pedal on a tricycle! 🙂 Parenting sometimes feels like the biggest experiment of your life, so just wanted to chime in with another approach. Thanks for your work!

    1. Thanks for your insight, Nicole! It sounds like you’re doing a great job! Of course, there are lots of ways to structure the day for kids and every family gets to make those decisions for themselves (which is the beauty of it all ;)) — many of the families with which I work strive to find the balance of structured and unstructured activities. Totally agree, when kids are left to their own devices, they certainly figure out what to do! 😉

  2. I leave a lot of comments on a lot of blogs each week – but there is one situation where I rarely leave a comment – even if the post deserves it. Good work!