Skip to content
Includes Expert Content
? for Rich: Raising active kids
Haylen_WebMD_Staff posted:
Hi Rich!

I was with a bunch of moms last night and we were discussing how to raise a child that enjoys being active. Half of the moms exercise and enjoy it, half of the moms hate working out and wish they enjoyed it more. Of course, I want my 2 girls to love it!

I wondered if your parents did anything that influenced you to pursue a career in fitness and keep super active? Did you play team sports? Did you work out as a family?

I'll pass on your wisdom to the WebMD Parenting Communities too!

Rich Weil, MEd, CDE responded:
Hi Haylen,

My dad was a great athlete and we always did stuff like throw the baseball or football, and even my mom would participate in pickup stickball games in the backyard with all the neighborhood kids! I was a good athlete and always played sports. But it was easy to do it because I was good at it. I wasn't good at playing the piano so I quit piano lessons shortly after I started (although I did learn to play the saxophone as an adult - and I was pretty good at it!). Genes definitely play a role in activity level, but you don't have to be an athlete to be physically active.

What's known is that sedentary children have a better chance of becoming active adults than sedentary teens. It doesn't mean teens cannot become active, it's just that it may be more difficult unless they have positive exposure to activity (in contrast to a lousy experience in gym class as a kid). For instance, in our adult weight loss program we play games like kickball and volleyball, and ride bikes, proving to our folks that it can be fun to be active (because they do have fun!). So it's a good diea to expose the kids early.

As for improving activity in children, here are some things to keep in mind. If you ask kids why they participate in sports and exercise, they reply, in order:

1. To have fun

2. To improve and learn new skills

3. To be with friends or make new ones

4. For the thrills and excitement

5. To be physically fit

If we can tailor exercise for kids to these ideas then we're more likely to increase activity.

Being a positive role model is probably the most important things parents can do. Research shows that kids with active parents are six times more likely to be active than kids with sedentary parents. It's not enough to expect the schools to do a good job with physical activity (which they don't always do), and league sports are great, but not every kid is skilled enough to play. Parents should get involved (and they don't need to be athletes to do it). That means activities on the weekends, for one (think: turn off the TV and computer and go outside). I can't even tell you how many times I've had conversations with parents about what they do with their children on the weekends and how infrequently they spend time doing fun physical activities. It could be hiking, or biking, or even just a walk. Dancing together is always fun (you can do it to just music or a DVD-check ). And kicking a ball around is something anyone can do. Kids like to play, it doesn't have to be competitive. I like parents to have a look at the Flaghouse catalogue and choose some equipment that looks like fun. Many of these activities do not require any real athletic ability.

A word about TV and the computer. Neither one is going away, so it's not enough to just shut it off (although limiting time on it is probably helpful). But games like Kinect and Wii and DDR are all good. Kids do tend to get bored and so variety will be helpful.

This is a good thread idea. Maybe some parents in the Fitness Community can chime in? What do you do with your kids?

Good topic!
Haylen_WebMD_Staff replied to Rich Weil, MEd, CDE's response:
Thanks Rich! Great information - I shared this discussion with one of the parenting communities filled with exercising moms - hopefully some of them will chime in too!

The flaghouse catalogue is GREAT - thanks for the heads up! I'm going to look for some fun stuff for my daughters 4th birthday party. She loves the show "Wipeout " and asked for an obstacle course in the back yard.

baby1at35 replied to Haylen_WebMD_Staff's response:
My boys are 6 yrs and 7 yrs old. Right now I am exposing them to several types of sports/activities to see what they like. We tried soccer (not really their thing). Basketball ...They love it ! , swimming... Love it !
Doing baseball right now and they are quickly starting to like that too. I just want to see what active thing they may like.
They have requested martial arts next. I am finding some classes for them to take.
But honestly more than sports I let them simply run around outside and use their imaginations. I do some yard work and they play. We live on a hill so running up and down the hill, slip and slide in the summer and rolling up and down is fun. In the winter we sled on our hill. They tend to actually move more with free play than organized play. So I try to make sure I balance both.
I grew up on a farm with only 2 tv channels. We were always outside.
I do struggle balancing the video games/tv time but they know they have to 2 both and why.
Tomato05 responded:
I don't have children. However, my parents never formally encouraged physical activity or sports, but they didn't discourage it either - it was just never on the agenda! We just played outside for exercise, I suppose.

Maybe as a result of that I was never interested in exercising until my mid thirties, when I was diagnosed with osteoporosis and doctors urged me to exercise. I really only got into exercise seriously when I was in my early forties.

I think it is very important to instill a love of exercise in your kids through enrolling them into a sport and through your own example...

PS My parents never exercised themselves. Remarkably, they are both very healthy and in their early eighties, although my mom has type 2 diabetes, but has been controlling it for 20 years through her diet. They are both very slim too!
Rich Weil, MEd, CDE replied to Haylen_WebMD_Staff's response:
You're welcome! I'll be curious to know what you purchase at Flaghouse. So much fun and creative stuff!
Rich Weil, MEd, CDE replied to baby1at35's response:
One of the important factors you mention is the amount of time kids spend outside. It's less likely kids will eat and sit around while outside (and same for parents!).
Rich Weil, MEd, CDE replied to Tomato05's response:
Your take-away message Tomato is that it's never too late!

Helpful Tips

Water aerobics
Water aerobics does not put the stress on your knees, ankles and/or back. More
Was this Helpful?
23 of 23 found this helpful

Helpful Resources

Be the first to post a Resource!

Related Drug Reviews

  • Drug Name User Reviews

Report Problems With Your Medications to the FDA

FDAYou are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.