If your child isn't the athletic type, it's important to keep him moving by finding activities he enjoys. Here, local pediatrician Dr. Joanna Dolgoff offers tips on making physical activity more fun for kids who aren't natural athletes.
What you don’t want to do is take a child who is embarrassed by his body or athletic skill and throw him into a soccer league with the best athletes. If some kids really don’t want to be in a competitive sports atmosphere, that’s fine. You have to think, “What are the types of things my child likes to do?” Find something they enjoy, whether it’s tae kwon do, an on-demand fitness video, or just going out to the park together to do a “walk-run.” You want to make sure you’re not throwing your kid into a situation where they’ll start hating exercise. Find something they can do on their own. Exercise doesn’t have to be competitive and it doesn’t have to be a group situation. Real exercise is sometimes better done in a more private situation.
Also, don’t assume that what you like to do for exercise is what they like to do. Sit with them at a neutral moment and say, “Let’s come up with fun ideas to be active.” You can Google "fun exercise activities for kids" and match your child’s interests. I had a patient once who loved to dance, and she was fighting with her mom because her mom was trying to put her on a treadmill. I said, “Let her go dance. As long as she’s moving, that’s okay.” You don’t have to get on a treadmill or elliptical to exercise. Think outside the box. But do your research to make sure they’re moving around enough to work up a sweat -- that’s when they’ll get the benefits.
My new obsession is Zumba. As the medical director at Camp Shane, the longest-running weight-loss camp, I was shocked at how much the girls and boys loved Zumba. It’s so much fun. Parents of boys may not think they will, but they love it. At the camp, I would see some of these morbidly obese boys leading the Zumba class, up on stage and enjoying it. If your child doesn’t want to do a group thing, you can start at home. It’s a really fun way to get them moving.
Joanna Dolgoff, M.D., is a pediatrician, child obesity specialist, official spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the author of “Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right” (Rodale, 2010). Dr. Dolgoff has offices in Manhattan, Queens, and throughout Long Island. She lives in Roslyn with her two children, ages 7 and 9.
How Can I Increase My Child's Active Time Outside of School?
How Can I Set Healthy Limits on My Child's Diet?