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Offshoot thread: encouraging physical activity

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

From the minecraft thread...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cassidy68 View Post
 

I'm curious: How do others help their kids create balance and find enjoyable forms of physical activity-- especially with introverted kids whose passions tend towards sedentary activities (gaming, books etc)? 

 

For us it's been an ongoing challenge. For the most part we do pretty well, but if we stop trying we discover ourselves sliding back into overly sedentary habits. We're a family of geeky introverts with petite bodies, contending with long winters and (worse) long cold wet shoulder seasons. In some ways we have it easy: we live in a wilderness setting. But that has its challenges too: we're so rural that there are no local organized sports, no community recreation centre, no arena, no swimming pool, etc. So, yeah, it can be a challenge.

 

We talk regularly about whether we're maintaining a healthy balance and we do have to keep at it.

 

Organized physical activities have helped, even when we have to drive a long way for them: in the past we've done aikido, gymnastics, swim lessons, community soccer, downhill skiing, XC ski club, skating lessons. Putting my kids in touch with other people who are involved in enjoyable regular physical pursuits is worth a lot in terms of internalizing that as "normal."

 

We have a bunch of accessible home exercise equipment: yoga mats, a chin-up bar, gym rings hanging from the ceiling, a (new last month!) a treadmill in the basement. We've spent money on decent quality mountain bikes and XC skis, and have equipped the outdoors with interesting options: ramps, beams, ropes, treehouse, bars, sometimes an outdoor skating rink.

 

And then we do what we can to model and directly encourage physical activity. We garden, we have a dog, we've raised chickens, we suggest going hiking, camping, canoeing. I encourage the kids to volunteer with me to help out at outdoor events like the ultra endurance race we staffed aid stations at a couple of weeks ago. I run several times a week. I mountain-bike and road-bike regularly. I downhill and XC ski through the winter. Now that the kids are old enough I go out an exercise even when I can't talk them into coming with me ... and I don't worry about it, because I can see that they're internalizing the message that it's important and normal for grown-ups to stay active. I'm not a fan of biking simply because it's good for them. It's important to me.

 

I grew up with parents who didn't put much stock in exercise. It took me until adulthood to begin to find pleasure in pushing myself to higher levels of physical fitness, to get involved in sports, to start really being active. I had a long period of insecurity and self-consciousness that I had to work through first. I want my kids to grow up with a different experience: having confidence and comfort in exercise and physical fitness. So I do stack the deck a fair bit in favour of that stuff.

 

So far my kids do seem to be picking up some pride and confidence in their fitness habits and abilities. It is an issue that requires constant attention, but by age 10 or 12 or 14 they seem to have internalized that nudging for themselves. Dd19 is living on her own and runs three times a week and works out at the gym regularly. When she was home this past summer, she wanted to spend her days off doing monster hikes into the alpine. Ds17 is wiry little guy who is a chin-up powerhouse and lifts weights a bit for the heck of it. Dd14 is on a volleyball team and her favourite "date" with her boyfriend is a 5k trail run they do regularly. From 8 to 12 or so seemed like the toughest ages to keep them physically busy, but the values seem to have soaked through eventually.

 

Miranda

post #2 of 8

I don't like to exercise for exercise sake.  I know this is wrong and I need to work on adjusting the way I think about it.  For now though, it has to have some other utility for me to keep up with it.  Otherwise, I am likely to abandon it. Currently, I walk to work almost daily. I have no problem keeping up with this because this is how I get to work.  I also live in a building without an elevator.  So, I get some leg strengthening there going up and down flights of stairs.  Being in urban area means we could walk to many places.  This gives us a chance to move our bodies.  I used to do very gentle, meditative yoga to help me with stress but It has been several years since I have done that.  

 

The kids have scheduled outside time in the mornings and afternoons; so they end up moving around a lot.  They are also taking a taekowndo class twice a week.  Once a week, they have an informal soccer game.  They usually go hiking over the weekend with Dh. They are pretty young (7 and 5) so keeping them active is easy.  But I can see my son becoming more like me.  He is a homebody. He loves to read, do puzzles, play games on the ipad, and draw.  Unless I suggest it, it doesn't occur to him to go outside.  The younger one, on the other hand, asks if she could go outside frequently without being prompted.  That is a personality trait she shares with her father who loves to be out and about.  

 

Right now, I am not worried about them getting enough physical activity.  As they get older though, I see a clear danger of becoming a couch potato unless we work on being active as a family.  I probably need begin introducing the idea of balance in discussions as in Miranda's family.  That sounds like a good way of raising awareness.  Family biking is an option but we live in a big, busy city and I worry about accidents.  The youngest one needs to get to a place where she is a confident biker out on the street and that is not going to happen at least for a few more years.  Maybe swimming.  We'll see.  

post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 

You know, I don't think exercise for exercise sake is necessary if you have a lifestyle that keeps you active enough to stay fit. I have a friend whose wife is always bugging him to get out an exercise. He borrowed a pedometer for a day and discovered that with walking and biking around town on errands, and pasturing the goats and getting firewood and walking his kids to school and gardening he was walking over 30,000 steps a day, three times the basic "stay fit" recommendation! His wife doesn't pester him anymore. My parents had tendencies that way, as did we kids: we walked and played outdoors a lot. If you have a basic daily life that keeps you fit, that's probably the ideal. Most young kids who have ready access to outdoor play will get good amounts of physical activity naturally. There are two possible problems with not having the habit of exercising for exercise sake.

 

The first is that most adults in our society today won't get enough exercise to remain physically fit without being intentional about it, and statistically that includes our-children-as-adults. So either they face a significant likelihood of having to learn the habit of exercise as adults, or we should teach / model that habit for them so that they learn it as kids even if they don't necessarily need it yet.

 

The second is that high levels of fitness and exercise-related experience increase one's confidence for joining into active pursuits that can be enjoyable and socially beneficial. It took me a while as an adult to develop the fitness level to feel comfortable joining in on group mountain bike rides, to try tennis, cross-country skiing, rock-climbing and so on. Those things are very fun if you can keep up with others who are reasonably agile and fit, but can be frustrating if not. 

 

Miranda

post #4 of 8
Following,as my DD (4.75 years old) is an introvert who tends to prefer sedentary activities. Both my boys are constantly moving, but it's harder to get her going. With the youngest being just 2 now, and a hard-headed, ornery, high needs, non-sleeping 2 at that, it's been hard for us to model regular daily activity/exercise as it is hard to get out with all 3 of them when he will NOT be worn or ride in a stroller. But he is getting older every day and hopefully by next year things will be much better. She has some interest in gymnastics or dance but is a very attached girl and is hesitant at this age to be away from me for a class, and I have no intention of forcing her. smile.gif
post #5 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post
 

 There are two possible problems with not having the habit of exercising for exercise sake. The first is that most adults in our society today won't get enough exercise to remain physically fit without being intentional about it, and statistically that includes our-children-as-adults. So either they face a significant likelihood of having to learn the habit of exercise as adults, or we should teach / model that habit for them so that they learn it as kids even if they don't necessarily need it yet.

 

The second is that high levels of fitness and exercise-related experience increase one's confidence for joining into active pursuits that can be enjoyable and socially beneficial. It took me a while as an adult to develop the fitness level to feel comfortable joining in on group mountain bike rides, to try tennis, cross-country skiing, rock-climbing and so on. Those things are very fun if you can keep up with others who are reasonably agile and fit, but can be frustrating if not. 

 

Miranda

 

Ha!  I have thought about the first problem but not the second because it is totally out of my realm of experience.  I have never really wanted to join active pursuits so it never occurred to me to think about what it entails.  It is mostly due to the first issue that I have been thinking about regularly discussing with my kids about the importance of balance and the benefits of staying active. Even though it is easy to keep them going right now as children, as teenagers, I think it will be a much harder task.  Also, while I move quiet a bit on a normal weekday, I don't get much cardio exercise at all.  I understand that is supposed to be better but I am not one to run without something scary and big chasing me.  I down right despise getting my heart rate up and not being able to breath comfortably.  I love sitting or laying around like it is no body's business.  So, I have stuck with slower, low impact activities that have a purpose and to me, feel good!

 

Luckily my DH is not like me and the kids have him to model something different.  I have to say though, as I am getting ready to enter my 4th decade of life, I am thinking more about these things. It is obvious to me that my body needs a better maintenance plan than the one it is on.  

post #6 of 8

ok my kids are in the younger range, aged 10 through 5, so I'm answering specifically about this age range rather than about older kids. I suspect the teenage years can be a bit tricker for this one.

 

I've always felt that the important thing is to ensure enough ambient exercise to keep kids physically fit. My experience is that if they have that, they are then enthusiastic about doing other sports. But at the same time, I tend to feel that the sports are not absolutely necessarily because they will generally run and so on of their own accord. 

 

That's involved making a lot of choices about how we live our lives. We live in the city, in order that we can bus, bike or walk to activities. One of the criteria for adding new activities is whether we can walk or bike there. The kids don't go to the amazing gym class, or the amazing football academy, both a drive away, with a squad and so on, rather they go to the local community gym, which we walk to, which isn't great but has a decent playground outside where all the local kids hang out after school. We have an allotment, a tiny piece of land a half hour bike ride away. They also have a lot of freedom to roam locally (I know some rural kids have this too, that's not city-specific). We only have one car which dp needs to get to work most days, and when we do have it , its a gas guzzler (in UK terms. By that I mean it does around  50 mp-US-g) and gas is expensive here-so we are very selective about when we use it and avoid using it. A few years ago I tried using a pedometer and was easily hitting the 10,000 steps or whatever it was (even without the cycling I do)-which means my kids were also. I might try giving them their own pedometers, now they are older, out of curiosity. 

 

 

My kids are very physically fit. Its noticeable that they are seldom tired out, they are still going at the end of a class when other kids are tired (to be fair, this is the case for most HS'd kids I know-I can't think of any HS'd kids who aren't physically very fit. Because they are basically default active and moving, I suspect.). They also-again, like other HS'd kids-have a lot of physical strength proportional to their size. My observation is that the HS'd life really is far more active than a schooled life, as a generalisation.

 

I don't see sports as making a significant contribution to their health at this age. When they are older I think it might. I try to get down to the local gym a few times a week and teenagers are allowed from, iirc, age 14. I think they would all absolutely love it. But right now I see physical fitness about being about habitually being active. About walking and biking and running just being things that we do as a family. About it being utterly embedded in our lives.  

 

I think discussions around balance can be very helpful, I'm seeing this as my oldest heads towards adolescence, and especially becomes old enough to be left alone for longer periods and so can avoid coming out with us. My feeling is that for my kids, this has been best rooted in habitual activity. I think, based on personal experience, that not exercising can have a spiral effect. The less you do, the less you want to do. I have periods when I have to be a lot more sedentary, where I have a glut of work to bust through, and I feel both less healthy and less inclined to exercise after. I know the two are linked, I've had enough experience of it to know that. But it is always a struggle to motivate myself to get back into it.  

 

We do live in a reasonably well resourced city for the stuff my kids like. We have a hackerspace, knitting clubs, community gardens etc, all walking distance or a bus ride away. I do hope that as they get older then they will take themselves off to this stuff. They are already known to some extent in these communities through dp and I. We will see.

 

@curlyfry I remember this age. It gets better, IME. The breakthrough for us was when we got to a stage of only one of the three kid needing to be on a parent bike, and the others able to do longer distances, 5+ miles and the same back. But just being at a stage when everyone basically walks in the same direction makes a big difference! 


Edited by Fillyjonk - 10/10/13 at 3:42am
post #7 of 8

Interesting. We've done similar things to others here... I've never been a sports person but I try to stay reasonably fit-- I have a treadmill in the living room, so I can exercise on days that my son doesn't want to leave the house. My partner does triathalons and half-marathons so there's some good modelling happening there (thanks, partner!). In the past, we've done more outside activities activities- swimming, squash etc- but we seem to be in a cocooning phase at present. Lots and lots of discussions about balance...  Thanks to all for sharing your thoughts. Miranda, I was interested and encouraged to hear about how your kids did internalize some of the "nudging", as you called it. 

post #8 of 8

We try to take a family walk most days when the weather is decent. Doing things together works best for ds. I'm guessing our route is about 2 miles. I measured it once at 1 1/2 miles so we added some blocks. Takes us 40 minutes walking briskly when the weather is nice, but 45 minutes when the weather is warmer and humid. If I have work, dh and ds will go together. My part time job is on my feet and hauling stuff so I feel like I get a good amount of exercise on those days. Ds does seem to be more dissatisfied with life at the end of the day if he hasn't gone out at all. So making sure we go on a walk on days we didn't have anything scheduled helps. In addition, the walk gives ds and dh a nice time to have a conversation. And I get to trail behind and think my own thoughts instead of their taking turns talking at me;-)

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