Not every child is immediately drawn to athletics, but all children and teens should learn the importance of physical activity as a part of a healthy lifestyle. Dr. Theodore Shybut, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Baylor College of Medicine, gives some pointers on encouraging physical activity in the non-athlete this school year.
“There are simple changes in daily behaviors anyone can do to increase their overall physical activity, including walking and taking the stairs instead of the elevator. However, the key is to find an enjoyable activity, something that helps establish healthy, lifelong habits that become a part of their routine and lifestyle,” said Shybut.
He suggests thinking outside of the box for those children and teens who are not interested in a specific sport. Things such as a Zumba or martial arts class can be fun for them to attend, and also will get the heart rate up.
Activities that have a social aspect also make children and teens more likely to take part. Pilates and yoga are two more examples of exercise that easily can be done as a group.
“These activities don’t have the same competitive atmosphere that a traditional sports environment does, which may be more appealing for some children and teens,” said Shybut.
Beyond sports at school
Shybut also recommends looking into sporting activities that are not offered in school, such as rowing or fencing, which are strenuous, involve teamwork and provide an opportunity to try something new.
He noted that getting the entire family involved is a great way to be physically active. Family walks, bike rides and hikes are a few activities he suggests to get everyone moving. Look for activities at various national parks that the entire family can take part in. If you are traveling, consider exploring by foot.
“The key is finding something that gets your heart rate up,” he said.
For younger children who are not drawn to sports, Shybut suggested emphasizing how fun physical activities can be, such as hiking, biking and swimming. Even outdoor activities such as horseback riding can be a part of the physical activity routine.
Shybut added that at this age, there is such a thing as overdoing physical activity and that too much pressure from parents can be detrimental. He suggested encouraging children and teens interests in activities they would like to explore and helping them develop these interests into lifelong patterns; the goal is a healthy balance of physical activity in their daily routine.