Helping Kids Get – and Stay – Active

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Did you know that kids school-aged and older should get 60 minutes of activity most days of the week? I know, that sounds like a great idea, but how do you make a nice—and very healthy—idea become a reality? Here are some tips to help your kids (and even yourself) get—and stay—active:

  • Be an “active” example. Let the kids see you making exercise a part of your life.
  • Let them choose what activities they’d like to do, and they’ll be more likely to enjoy them!
  • Exercise as a family: “The family that plays together, stays together.”
  • Schedule activity into every day. Break up exercise periods into smaller increments and always be flexible. The goal is to make daily activity a life-long habit.
  • Do the kids show interest in your favorite activities? Adjust them to their skill and attention levels. Yes, you might not get in a “perfect” workout, but the long-term payouts are so worth it!
  • Be active with the kids. Do what they like to do: Jump Rope, Hopscotch, tag, etc. Have them teach you new skills.
  • Walk more.
  • Help your kids set fitness goals. Maybe they’d like to complete a marathon or bike 500 miles, one mile at a time. Maybe they’d like to master new swim strokes, or learn to fence. And maybe they’d even like to take up karate or Hip Hop.
  • Include their friends. Anything is more fun with friends!
  • Use exercise as a reward for completing not-so-fun activities like homework and chores.
  • Have some basics on hand to make exercising more convenient: Balls, jump ropes, bikes, Frisbees, Sidewalk Chalk (for hopscotch and four square), etc.
  • Limit screen time. At our house, if the kids want to play video games, they need to play (be active) for 60 minutes. THEN they can play their favorite games.
  • Choose active—versus couch potato—video games. And join in on the fun!

And last, but not least, be patient and offer lots of positive feedback and encouragement. It might take some trial and error for the kids to find activities they love, but once they do, they’ll want to stay active. For life!

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7 Comments

  1. Maryann Rigler - July 25, 2014

    My 14 year old daughter has embraced working out and has been doing so with me since December. I purchased Chris’s book and now she is carb cycling. She will be beginning her Sophomore year in school and has concerns about keeping to the 5 meals a day. As great as her school is they aren’t going to allow her to eat a prepared meal other than at lunchtime. Any suggestions for something she can throw in her backpack that doesn’t require refrigeration or preparation? I would hate to see her sabotage her current enthusiasm.

    • Team Powell - July 25, 2014

      Here are some ideas that might help: protein bars, nuts, single serving natural peanut butter, fruit, mini peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. She could also add single servings of protein powder to a water bottle for a quick protein source. Hope that helps! :)

  2. Dee Westmoreland - July 15, 2014

    HELP!!! WE ARE DESPERATE & VERY MUCH WORRIED!!! We have a daughter who just turned 22 yesterday (July 14th). She also has Asperger Syndrome (Autism) & 5′ tall..weighs 260 lbs. She doesn’t want to listen to Mom or Dad about exercising..eating better..etc. She does better listening to others. SO PLEASE COME HELP HER OUT!!! I cry..beat myself up, knowing her life could be shortened & my most difficult worry is HER!! What will happen to HER, if something happens to me. PLEASE- PLEASE-PLEASE HELP!!!!
    Sincerely,
    A VERY WORRIED MOM!!!

    • Team Powell - July 16, 2014

      Hi Dee: We’re so sorry to hear about your daughter, and we can’t imagine how difficult this must be for you. Hopefully these tools will help you help her get started on a healthy journey. As you know, any change has to come from within her; however, one thing you might try, and this is the first step Chris and Heidi take with every single client they work with, is to have her make and keep small daily promises to herself. This promise doesn’t even have to be health related – the important thing is to build her confidence and personal integrity. Read about the process here: http://chrispowell.com/choose-a-promise/. When she’s ready to start her own transformation, have her check out Heidi and Chris’ carb cycling program in their book, “Choose More, Lose More for Life.” It’s a complete mind, body, and food program, and it’s the same one they use on the show and with every client they work with. It works! Learn about the nutrition basics here: http://heidipowell.net/2713/carb-cycling-101/. We truly wish you both the best!

    • Danielle Villegas - July 28, 2014

      Dee,
      As the mother of a son who is on the spectrum as well, I definitely understand where you are coming from. It’s taken us years to get my son to start eating more healthy things and start exercising. Now, he’s just turned 13, so he’s still young, and we are trying to stay ahead of the curve. If your daughter is living with you, then there are ways to take things into your own hands without it being totally obvious to her. First of all, don’t beat yourself up. I do the same thing (believe me!) and we have to constantly remind ourselves that we can only do so much with our kids. The fact that you want to help her is a good first step–better late than never! As I said, if she lives with you and you make many of her meals, you can use some of the same tactics that are used for little kids. I’ve done it, and it seems to work with some results. For example, if she is fussy with food because of sensory issues or routine, try one or both of these tactics: a) get her to have the same foods she likes, but in different combinations. For example, when my son discovered that he liked salads because he liked the veggies on sub sandwiches, he started to become a salad lover and now eats them all the time instead of fried stuff at restaurants. He’s definitely slimmed down just because of that! Related to that is b) Pay her to try new foods. We don’t have to do it so much now, but in the past year, we told my son we’d pay him $1 for each new food or new combination that he tried, whether he liked the food or not. There were certain foods we were sure he’d like if he’d try them, and we were right. The cash is an incentive to him, and we felt it was worth it to get him into the habit of trying new things. It worked!

      The other thing to do that’s normally for little kids, but it works for “kids” of all ages is sneaking foods. Check out Missy Lapine or Jessica Seinfeld books for ideas. I’ve been doing this not only for my son, but for ME! I’m not a big veggie person myself, but it helped get us on the right track of getting more veggies and less junk in our meals. Cut back –but not out–sugar. My skinny husband found out that he’s pre-diabetic, so he cut back significantly without “sugar-free” items, and he lost a few pounds himself.

      Ways to get my son moving was shopping runs. We like to go to the malls around here, so we make sure that we walk the lengths of each floor of the mall (we try to choose bigger malls!) to walk during the afternoon. It doesn’t need to be power-walking or an official “mall walk”. The trick is just getting out and moving! I also am going to be enforcing a lunchtime walk with my son during this upcoming month while he’s out of ESY and before school starts. He prefers to take his bike (which is fine), but at least it gets him out of the house and moving! Just encourage short walks with you around the block after dinner, and make it a new routine.

      Autistic people are all about routine. Changing her routine won’t be easy, but if you do little subtle things, it’ll become routine. The other thing, like Team Powell said, it’s really up to her. Not only is my son Aspie , I am too (didn’t figure that out until my 40s!). All I ever heard from my father was (and still is), “Your mother worries about you.” I’m was about 80 lbs overweight, and I finally made a decision that I wasn’t happy about how I felt in my own body, so I have been working to lose weight. Because of knee, hip, and back injuries, as well as asthma, exercising isn’t easy, and I didn’t want to drag myself to a gym. So, I’ve been walking like crazy, and my husband invested in a Bowflex MAX stair-elliptical machine. I force myself to walk or to use the MAX–or both–every day. I don’t enjoy working out, but if I pace myself so I don’t get an asthma attack, I can do it. I have also been using an app on my phone to control my calories, and I’ve learned that while I wasn’t eating THAT badly, my portion control was out of whack. (If you are cooking for her, you can control that too.) In the past 2 months, I’ve lost about 15 lbs, so I’m off to a good start.

      Aspie kids never want to listen to their parents, believe me. But if you are involved in her life, don’t nag, but do remind her of things like she could do XYZ activity better if she ate better (don’t say “lose weight”!) or moved around more. We hate nagging parents more than typical parents. ;-) (And yet, I’m a nagging parent too–it’s because we love our kids).

      I’m sure that much of it has to do with breaking routines and things that she likes and is used to doing. If she’s not used to making time to do an easy exercise like walking, then she won’t want to do it. I’ve had to force myself to do it, and I’m glad. Now, once the school year starts, it’s going to be a readjustment for me because during the time that I workout now, after dinner, it’ll be supervising homework, so I need to figure out the balance to get all my workout time in and not overextend myself. Help her with that. Help her see that if it’s 10 minutes here, change the fries to a salad–little steps–it’ll eventually add up into a weight loss, but it WILL take some time.

      And set the example yourself. Because my son sees me taking charge of my health and making changes, he’s more willing to make those changes too. He’s learning to cook healthier himself, and ask good questions, setting some new and good habits that will hopefully stick with him.

      I hope this helps. Good luck!

  3. Christine - May 9, 2014

    Thanks for posting this. My husband and and I were just discussing how to get our 12 and 16 yr old more physically active. Great ideas!

  4. Brenda Brandt - May 9, 2014

    Hi Heidi and Chris,
    My daughters and I love you and your family!
    Have you ever thought about having a family on your makeover show?
    If so, we would love to be your first!

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