Soar Into Healthy Habits :: Yes, I Make My Children Exercise

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READING TIME: 5 min.

Dallas Moms Blog is excited to partner with Dallas metroplex The Little Gym locations for a weekly sponsored series on children’s health and fitness!

SOAR

Every single morning at 6 a.m. my father put on his Nike’s and went for a walk. In Pennsylvania, where I was raised, he’d often have to wear a hat and scarf, heavy gloves, plus several layers of clothing. If it was raining or snowing, he’d use the treadmill that lived in our basement. He was like the U.S. Postal Service–no weather could stop him from his morning exercise.

It wasn’t until I reached my twenties that I realized exactly why he was so committed to his routine. He needed it for his sanity and, apparently, so did I. My mental well-being began to depend on me making it to the gym. Because I worked a demanding job all day, creating excuses to skip that daily exercise time was all too easy. I had to find a way to force exercise to happen regularly in my life.

The only thing I could figure out– that would be sure to get me to the gym regularly –was to get them to hire me. So, that’s what I did. I got certified, became a fitness instructor, and eliminated the possibility of missing a workout.

Through all four of my pregnancies I taught group aerobics classes. I guess you could say my children started working out before they were even born. Now, they have a strong affinity for all types of music with a good workout beat.

As soon as they were big enough to run, I realized this exercise thing was as much a key to their sanity as it was my own. When things started to get a little crazy in the playroom, I’d turn on my boot camp drill instructor voice and start ordering children to shoe up and hit the back patio. Work out time!

Zach pushing tire
With the right equipment and in the right setting, kids can come up with great workouts.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are days where it is still a struggle to convince them that physical movement is better for their well-being than, say, playing Minecraft all afternoon. But, once they get out and get moving, I can visibly see the change in their demeanor.

I’ve also found that sometimes kids need a little direction on the exercise front. On occasion, I’ve sent the troops outside for physical play in hopes that I could get some laundry done in peace, only to find that they are all sitting in lawn chairs staring at the ground. To intervene, I channel my inner elementary school gym teacher and try to make exercise fun.

One drill that always works is having them line up on our fence line and doing “animal races”. They run like cheetah, then hop like a bunny, then slink like a cat, then sway like an elephant. Back and forth they go. After they get the hang of it, I have them come up with their own animal suggestions and show their siblings what noises and motions accompany their suggestion.

I've also been known to shout, "Run it back" to a child (or fireman) returning from the mailbox.
I’ve also been known to shout, “Run it back” to a child (or fireman) returning from the mailbox.

Another idea, have them play “fitness instructor”. I always start so they can see how it’s done. I’ll say something like, “Okay, ten jumping jacks.” Then, lead the exercise and count them down from ten. Even if you’ve never had the inclination to lead a group fitness class, I think you’ll find it fun to call out the exercises. Once they get a few exercise ideas in their heads, then allow them to “lead the class.” It’s a good workout for them, and, ahem, perhaps for mom too!

Of course, you don’t have to always orchestrate their workouts. Some of the best exercise opportunities for kids come more organically. Like the time my son and his friend decided that putting a pole into the tire swinging and running around in circles would be, “fun.” (Go for it, child. Go for it!)

But, you do have to put your children in environments where exercise is possible. As my children have grown and our yard has (seemingly) shrunk, it’s taken more effort to get them to parks, gyms and other places where they have the space and freedom to safely explore and move. My children refused to ride their bikes in front of our home because the space was so limiting and it wasn’t really “fun” for them to go only the 45 yards or so we could safely let them ride. Yet at their grandparents’ home, they can safely ride down a street and around a cul-de-sac. You can guess which place they are excited to go out and ride their bikes and at which place they’d rather stay inside and watch Disney channel.

Yes, I make my children exercise. And, here’s why: They need it. Someday, I’m hopeful they’ll see the value in establishing these habits early in life and that they’ll continue them through adulthood. 

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Please Note :: The Little Gym is graciously sponsoring our “Soar into Healthy Habits” series…and we would not have it any other way! We are passionate about all that they are doing to encourage children’s health and fitness! If you’re looking for your kids to become more active in a fun and engaging way, contact  The Little Gym and try an introductory experience to help support you in keeping your kids healthy and happy!

To learn more about The Little Gym’s programs for ages 4 months to 12 years, make sure to visit their website or contact a location nearest you!

You’ll find The Little Gym at the following locations throughout the Dallas metroplex:
• Preston & Forest; Dallas
• Mockingbird & Abrams; Dallas
• Preston & Park; Plano
• Preston & Stonebrook; Frisco

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