Create a Kids' Fitness Plan

Help kids make the move from sedentary to active with an achievable plan.

Girl with inline skates and helmet
Kane Skennar / Getty Images

To help your child make the move from a sedentary lifestyle to an active one, you need a kids' fitness plan. Designed with your child's input, this road map will help him find physical activities that he enjoys, and find the time to enjoy them.

1. Find a baseline.

Allison Falk is a former professional soccer player who is now a fitness coach for Kurbo Health, a kids' fitness program and app. When she begins working with a new client, she asks: What does your exercise routine look like, if you have one?

What do you like to do even if you don't do it? "Everyone likes to do something," says Falk. She asks her kids to walk them through her normal day. "Are you walking to school? Biking to school? What are some really small changes we can make here or there?"

2. Set achievable goals.

For Kurbo Health participants, the initial recommended goal is just 10 minutes of activity a day. "It's very small, very manageable," says Thea Runyan, a co-founder of Kurbo Health. Your fitness plan doesn't need to do everything at once. "We reinforce that," says Runyan, who might suggest, for example, that a child take the stairs instead of the elevator two or three times a day. "Going to an hour a day all of a sudden is not sustainable or enjoyable."

3. Brainstorm activities.

Work together on a list of options to add to that baseline of regular activity: walking the dog, playing an active video game, raking leaves or shoveling snow, taking a karate class, joining an archery club, family bike rides, going to the driving range with Mom or Dad.

There are tons of possibilities.

What if your child claims that she doesn't like sports? "I tell kids that if they don’t like any exercise, it’s like saying they don’t like any foods," says Runyan. "Some kids love team sports. Some absolutely don’t like to exercise in groups. There are so many types of exercise available to us.

We ask that they are open to try new things. Over time, they find what they are passionate about--and they see that exercise makes them feel good and helps them focus."

4. Make a weekly plan.

Take a look at what activity your child already has built into the week, such as soccer practice on Tuesday and Thursday and playing tag with friends on Saturday. "Then ask, 'How can we fill in the other days based on your goals?'" Falk advises. Maybe you can take a walk together after dinner on Monday and have a family Ping-Pong tournament on Sunday. Just like a meal plan does, a fitness plan helps your child set an intention, find time in his schedule, and be prepared for activity when the time comes (say, by inviting friends over for an active play date or bringing shin guards to school on soccer practice days).

5. Notice progress.

Compliment your child when she sticks to the plan, and help her notice progress. Maybe she's getting more playing time during soccer games, or she can walk farther on a family hike.

Maybe she's lost a pound or two (if that was recommended by her physician). Maybe she's sleeping better at night and concentrating more easily at school. Any of these changes can be incredibly motivating!

6. Ramp up.

Once you see success with a first set of goals, keep going! You might encourage your child to add a little more time to the weekly plan, or to try a new physical challenge. Maybe you'll join him on a family goal, such as running a 5K together. If his motivation is flagging, consider incentives and non-food rewards to help keep him going.

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