Updated: Sep 5, 2019
I‘ve been a FitNess coach for some time now and recently started coaching kids on fitness and healthy habits. I believe with my heart and soul that we (as parents and coaches) can make a huge difference and instill the values of Healthy Living in our kids, if we believe in it ourselves.
If I didn't do fitness coaching and regular workouts regularly I would totally fall into a completely sedentary lifestyle. I did a quick assessment of my day - driving 2 hours/day, computer work time - 8 hours/day, TV time -1 hour/day and of course the winner of all, phone screen time - 2 hours/day ! Wait…that’s 13 out of 16 non-sleeping hours a day. Am I saying I didn’t do any physical activity - pretty scary, right? I didn’t watch what I ate either. I asked myself why were my own kids not into fitness and healthy food? In a lot of ways our children often copy what we do.
As I started having health issues several years ago, I decided to take matters into my own hands and took upon the new journey of regular exercising, sports and healthier diet. On top of lost weight and improved health, I’ve noticed what I think even more important benefits - a significant boost of energy, self-confidence and uplifted mood. Since then, I’ve become a complete believer with my newly acquired habits. Next logical thing for me to do was of course, to get my kids interested in my new track of fitness and health - easy, right ?
This is is how it started..“Girls, why don’t you join me in the morning for a quick P90x for a bit?”…crickets. It finally dawned on me that I needed a much different approach with my kids to get them to exercise and eat healthier. To start, I stopped calling it an “exercise”..why? because to kids it spells out boring work that produces sweat. It’s pretty useless to talk long-term benefits to your kids because normally they don’t rationalize benefits far in advance. Let’s change this around a bit and call this “exercise” thing, a really FUN game we’re going to play - who’s in?
Feel the difference now ? Now let me get to the meat of it and what I found works with my (and coached students) kids so far:
1. Theme-based contests
What is your child crazy about? -Pokemon, Minions or Pink Unicorns? Come up with at least 3 simple games using favorite characters. Discuss ahead of time what game you will be playing to create anticipation. Integrate fun exercising tools like a jumping rope, soccer ball or hula hoop into the contest.
Minion Example: Tell one of your sons he is Kevin and the other son is Stuart. Discuss vocabulary of each minion like “gelato”, “kanpai”, “banana”. With every hula rotation, your son yells one of the vocabulary words. Switch from a hand to a foot and try rotating hula. Time every event and count the number of rotations. Next time they should be able to beat their current results. Switch it around for next week and do a rope jumping game. As a reward make something theme-based like a healthy “Minion Banana” pudding together (recipe-link)
2. Music and dance are awesome motivators and a great cardio. We do dance fitness with my daughters and they would choreograph the moves. Pick a tune your child loves and prepare ahead of time with 3-4 simple and fun moves. Zumba Kids YouTube helpful resource of simple moves (ZumbaKidsLink) “I like to Move It” and “Everybody Dance Now” are my favorites tunes, but you know better what kind of music your children like. You can start by leading the first song and then ask your children if they want to be the lead even if it’s for a short time and everyone else follows them - great to put them in charge. I suggest at least 15 minutes of cardio daily which can involve dancing.
DanceFitness YouTube link
3. Fun Group Challenges
Do you have playdates often? Do your kids play with neighbors? It’s time to make it more interesting - simple group challenges. Divide into teams.
Obstacle course Example: Run with a hard-boiled egg while holding it in a spoon. Make it more challenging and setup a turn slalom with cones. Another obstacle course could involve holding a balloon between the legs and hopping like a bunny in the same fashion (image below). Reward everyone at the end. Check out my YouTube for more ideas https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCakciw_nbkrfxSK3UzFIubQ
4. Pets to the rescue - yay!
Using pets as exercise motivator works great. Example: Bring your dog to do a race. Now ask your neighbors to bring their dogs. Measure the time and discuss whose dog ran faster with your child. Now swap the dogs and see if the driver helped or not. Obviously you need to know the temper of the dog and your child as well …wink wink.
5. Food Art Challenges
Who will make an awesome-looking lion or a dog face out of fruits, veggies and yogurt. Look for example photos on my Instagram This is a great opportunity to educate your kids on what healthy nutrition is about (good resource). Read facts about healthy ingredients you decided to use for your food-art project. Re-enforce what you’ve learned about yogurt, fruits and veggies by quizzing your kids next time you gather up around a family dinner.
I’m not saying all of these ideas will work great for your kids but you should at least try these and share whether they worked with your kids. Your own enthusiasm and self-belief is priceless and I believe will serve as a great motivator. Be a complete believer yourself first and foremost. Your energy, (physical and spiritual) will carry you to do great things for your kids and propel their health and happiness, and that’s what it’s all about !
I would love to hear about your journey. I want to encourage you to have lots of patience and teat it as a long-term journey - we are in it together !
Youth Fitness Coach
p.s. Per recent recommendations from CDC (Center of Decease Control) children need to exercise at least 60 minutes a day 3 times a week (link)