Challenge Yourself: The #1 Way to Get Your Kids In Shape

As told to Maria Masters by TJ Loos, Tilton Fitness

Competitiveness isn’t always a bad thing—in fact, this instinct often pushes us to perform at our highest levels. The more effort we put into something, the more benefits we reap from it. Take sports, for example. The harder we train at them, the more physically fit we become. And when we’re really motivated, we often maximize those workouts.

Parents play a major role in a encouraging a healthy lifestyle. First and foremost, they must lead by example. If Mom or Dad prefers to watch TV in their spare time, the children will invariably follow suit.

When your kids are young, it’s best to set some time aside for them to run around. Encourage them to go outside and play a game of tag, set up an obstacle course for them in the backyard or take the lead in a game of Simon Says—and command them to do a quick sprint or two. But as children grow older, they’ll primarily get their exercise through sports. And since these activities are designed to bring out their competitive nature, kids will start playing them with a level of competitiveness that’s sure to rev up their fitness levels.

Here are a few sports to encourage:

* Basketball: You don’t have to fill up the court with players—a one-on-one game can be a great cardio workout. Players need to be quick, versatile, and coordinated. Plus, you’d be surprised at how a sudden jump for a rebound or a block attempt can recruit the same muscles that you’d use in a plyometric workout.

* Swimming: Nothing gets your heart pounding like a race in the pool. Swimming requires us to use just about every one of our muscles. Bonus: The water acts as resistance, which we don’t normally get on land, so we have to work extra hard to move around.

* Tennis: Because this sport mimics interval training—i.e., repeated short bursts of movements followed by a period of rest—it can also be a great endurance workout. And it demands a lot of our muscles; your arms have to constantly return the ball and your legs need to move with speed and agility.

Helping your kids lead an active, healthy lifestyle does require some effort—but it might be easier than you think. Remember:

  • Be an example.
  • Set some time aside each day for your children to run around.
  • Take part in the activities with them.

Lastly, choose sports that are fun, and activities that will spark the imagination. That way, your kids will be even more enthusiastic about getting in shape.

 Maria Masters is the associate health editor at Family CircleTJ Loos is a certified personal trainer at Tilton Fitness in Galloway, New Jersey; he’s coaching the Avagliano kids’ coach for the Healthy Family Challenge.