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Convincing Your Preteen to Exercise

How do you get your preteen (or tween) to exercise, when hanging out at the mall with friends is the order of the day? The answer lies in how you present exercise to your child. Try the following:

  • Make it fun, not drudgery. Let your child choose the activity you’ll do together and just go along for the ride. Have some suggestions in mind, however, so that you don’t spend half an hour trying to decide how to spend your half-hour exercise session together.

  • Make it cool. The definition of cool depends on your child, so ask.

  • Involve as many of your tween’s friends as possible.

  • Encourage participation in school, church, and community sports teams. Chances are, you can find a team that’s playing soccer, basketball, t-ball, football, hockey, and any number of other sports in your area. Tweens usually have a lot of fun in organized sports, meeting other kids their age, developing athletic skills, and discovering how to work as a team.

Add exercise by leaving the car behind

If you have a tween, chances are, you spend a lot of time playing chauffeur to your child and her friends. An exceptional way to help your child become healthier is to substitute walking or bike riding for many of these car-intensive errands. Going to dance lessons? Hop on your bikes and ride the 2 miles to the studio. Heading to the bookstore or library? Stroll there and back. If you live too far to comfortably walk or ride, consider packing your bikes into your car, parking a mile or two away, and pedaling around while you do errands together.

Whether you’re heading to school, the park, or a friend’s house, use the car as your last option. When you do drive, park as far away from the building as possible to give you and your tween a chance to stretch your legs a bit. Be sure she understands that you’re not just being the least cool parent in the world by parking way off in one corner, but that exercise is important to you, and you want to use your legs to get you around whenever possible.

Cutting back on TV and video games

After a hard day at work, you just want to sink into the recliner, grab the remote, and veg out, right? Well, maybe. Taking time to relax each day is, of course, absolutely necessary in life. But spending hours in front of the TV is often more a matter of habit than necessity, and your kids will follow your lead. Watching TV and playing video games is fun — no doubt about it — but so is playing a game of pick-up basketball, taking a walk through town, playing touch football, riding bikes, and climbing trees. If you can limit the amount of time you spend in front of the TV — and we’re talking about really limiting it, say, to a half-hour per day — you can open up precious hours to play, talk as a family, finish homework, read quietly, and so on.

It’s no great irony that, as TV viewing increases, so do obesity levels.

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