Engage youth in physical activity

Keeping kids motivated to participate in physical activities will naturally lead to positive health outcomes.

Now that the XXX 2012 Olympiad games have concluded and we’re all motivated from these highly successful competitors, it is a great time to look at the amount of physical activity that our youth are getting on an average basis and how we might help in motivating them.

We know that past research has focused on children’s physical activity and the beneficial health-related outcomes that can be gained, such as reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and obesity. Keeping kids motivated to participate in physical activities will naturally lead to these types of health outcomes .

To assist parents, teachers and adults in the goal of motivating youth, it is important to understand three aspects that pay a key role in the acceptance of the activity:

  1. Youth want to develop and demonstrate physical competence, such as athletic skills, physical fitness and physical appearance.
  2. Gaining social acceptance and support including friendships, peer group acceptance, and approval, reinforcement and encouragement by significant adults (parents, teachers, coaches) is key to initiating and continuing participation.
  3. Fun derived from participation maximizes positive experiences and minimizes negative experiences related to physical activity. Enjoyment is likely to enhance the attractiveness of the current activity and decrease the appeal of alternative activities (e.g., gangs, at-risk behaviors). The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has some great ideas for parents and youth to keep it fun.

Now that the youth are on their way to a positive behavior with physical activity, you may want to help them identify how much activity they should have and examples that count towards that physical activity. Aerobic, muscle and bone-strengthening activities are all important to the body’s health.

We know that we should all exercise, but staying motivated to be physically active at levels to accrue these benefits is another story. Because active children lead to active adolescents and adults, we should focus our efforts on our youngest members of society. Specifically, adults should be prepared to structure the environment and display behaviors that enhance children’s physical competency beliefs, self-esteem and enjoyment of physical activity. The keys to solving the mystery of motivating kids in physical activity are perceptions and emotions that are nurtured.

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