Less Sitting, More Movement
“Please help me find ways to motivate my 11-year-old to get some physical activity or more movement. Since we have been distance learning, he has been very shut off to PE and just wants to sit on the couch or play video games when he is done with school. Thanks!”
Use Kid-Friendly Language
“Stay at home” must not mean “Just sit at home.” In fact, “sit, and stew is bad for you” is what you can tell your child. Here is why. One of the best ways to avoid getting sick is to have a healthy immune system. Movement mobilizes your immune system. Say to your child, “You have a big army of tiny soldiers inside your body that travel around fighting germs to help keep you from getting sick. Sitting too much not only makes you feel lazy, but it also makes your immune system, your soldiers inside, lazy too. Your immune system soldiers get their energy to fight germs when giving them energy by being energetic yourself.
Moving Time Before Sitting Time
Also, the more you move during the day, the better you sleep at night, and when you sleep better, you stay healthier. One of my favorite “medicines” to dampen the fear factor that may be lessening the motivation of many of our children is “go out in the yard and play.” In the winter months, that can be more challenging, and the whole family may need indoor and outdoor regular family exercise time each day. One of Mom’s mandates can be “Moving Time Before Sitting Time.” Find a system to keep track of “sitting time” so that there can be equal time spent moving either inside or outside. Maybe have your child find a way of earning extra video game time with extra movement time.
Use At-Home Resources to Encourage More Movement
Our favorite movement for the holidays is dancing. Play some energetic holiday music and dance around with your child to his immune system’s delight. If he wants TV time, show him how to work out while he watches. Here is one of our favorite TV-time workouts: show your child how to use exercise bands while watching his shows. This will work better if Mom and Dad get some of their movement time in the same way.
There are video games that incorporate dance and movement, and that can give your child a good workout. You can find YouTube kids’ exercise classes, just like YouTube has for adults. A group activity like this with your son’s friends via Zoom could be organized by several moms so that at an agreed-upon time on several days, the kids can connect and move at the time. Better yet! Get all the other parents on board to offer a movement challenge for the kids, and whoever logs the most hours of movement each week gets a prize.
Opportunities for Bonding and More Movement
Another idea is to use this as a bonding opportunity. Make them feel special by planning a date with dad to go for a bike ride or hike. Maybe even add on a healthy treat after to help them equate exercise with fun and connection.
One of the moms in our practice shares her strategy, “Routine is key! Once Jackson knew I wasn’t budging on our plans to hike, he stopped fighting me. Make it fun. We would do dollar store treasure hunts in the woods, so the kids wanted to keep going. Fun, healthy snacks they can look forward to along the hike/excursion also kept them interested. Give options and let them choose; 3 days a week, we will hike, but what would you like to do the other 2-3 days? Basketball at the park?”
Further resources for you on home exercising:
- The Healthy Brain Book – our newest book
- The Dr. Sears T5 Wellness Plan, our book showing fun exercises you can do with your family like the isometric or resistance band workout
- Check out these articles on our website:
Martha is the mother of Dr. Bill’s eight children, a registered nurse, a former childbirth educator, a La Leche League leader, and a lactation consultant. Martha is the co-author of 25 parenting books and is a popular lecturer and media guest drawing on her 18 years of breastfeeding experience with her eight children (including Stephen with Down Syndrome and Lauren, her adopted daughter). Martha speaks frequently at national parenting conferences and is noted for her advice on how to handle the most common problems facing today’s mothers with their changing lifestyles. Martha is able to connect with both full-time, stay-at-home mothers and working mothers because she herself has experienced both styles of parenting. Martha takes great pride in referring to herself as a “professional mother” and one of her favorite quips when someone voices their concern about her having eight children in an already populated world is: “The world needs my children.”