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Coaching Tips: 4 Ways to Inspire Kids to Exercise - by Sarah Daren

From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
"Helping coaches coach better..."

Sarah Daren is a featured writer on the Today Show website and has been a consultant for organizations across a number of industries including athletics, health and wellness, technology and education. When she's not caring for her children or watching the New York Yankees play, Sarah enjoys practicing yoga and reading a good book on the beach.

Sarah Daren
Sarah Daren

Technology has improved our lives in a lot of different ways, but it's also made kids a lot more sedentary. Only one in three kids is physically active every day, and children now spend more than seven and a half hours per day in front of screens. That's almost a full-time job!

All that screen time is taking away from playing outside and exercising their bodies. Even if kids play sports, they likely aren't getting enough physical activity. Playing sports without proper conditioning can put them at greater risk for injury. As a coach, it's not just your job to teach and inspire kids to play-it's also to encourage them to exercise and live a healthy lifestyle, serving as a role model for healthy living.

Physical activity has many benefits for children, including stronger muscles and bones and a reduced likelihood of becoming overweight or developing type 2 diabetes. Creating good exercise habits early is key for a healthy lifestyle later in life. As just about every adult knows, however, it's not easy to make kids do something they don't want to do. Here are four tips for inspiring kids to exercise and take care of themselves.

1. Teach kids the benefits of exercise

Like adults, kids need a good reason to do something they don't feel like doing. Teaching kids the benefits of exercise doesn't mean reciting a bunch of stats, but it does mean showing kids why exercise is important.

Depending on the age of the kids you coach, the way you teach the benefits of exercise will vary. High school students are likely to be more interested in gaining strength, while little kids will love learning exercises that releases endorphins and improve happiness.

2. Make exercise fun

Kids might not like traditional exercise, like running, but they're naturally wired to be active and play. You can use that to make exercise fun and exciting. Play games with your team to get them moving, introduce the kids to yoga, and try different kinds of exercise to see what the kids like best. If you're stumped, there are tons of great resources online for fun games and activities to get kids moving.

kids playing soccer

3. Let kids try different sports and hobbies

Most adults who are trying to become more active have to do a little experimentation to find the types of exercise they like best. The same goes for kids. People are more inclined to want to do activities they like! Support kids in trying different sports. As a coach, you can also encourage members of your team to try different positions. Help them find their strengths, and let them pursue what they enjoy doing.

4. Bring parents in for encouragement

As a coach, there's only so much you can do to encourage good habits. While not all kids have engaged parents who will encourage exercise and limit time spent in front of a screen, others may just not know what they need to do. Bring parents into the conversation and keep them informed of what you're trying to do-and how they can help.

Having parents encourage physical activity and praising their kids for caring about their health can be very powerful. Give parents tips on getting their kids outside, and make it clear that all of this should be fun. The last thing you want is for parents to demand that their children go with them on a morning run-those good intentions can easily backfire.

Exercise for a Healthy, Happy Life

Kids who exercise regularly are more likely to grow up well and make health a priority during their adult lives. Coaches and parents need to realize that children have different needs than adults, and encouraging them to exercise can take a little bit of creativity.

Making exercise a joyful experience has powerful subconscious effects and can help kids stay fit and in shape their entire lives. Don't be afraid to try different tactics to figure out what works best. Kids may resist exercise initially, but the moment they're running from the fastest kid on the team during a game of freeze tag, they'll forget all about the screen they were sitting in front of an hour before.

Articles by Sarah Daren