I was planning to write a post specifically about exercise and autism. However, I have noticed that I have readers with all different types of kids (DUH, right)? And as someone pointed out, all kids are unique learners. So, I'm going to broaden my focus a little. I'm going to talk about how to motivate your kids to exercise. I'm also going to talk about how to improve the conditioning of your child no matter what is his or her preferred activity or exercise. In my son's case, it is swimming. (Post may contain affiliate links).
I have to be honest here.
I haven't been the ideal model when it comes to motivating my son to exercise.
Sure, I'm exercising almost daily. So I am modeling the importance of exercise.
But getting my son motivated to exercise is a whole different story.
It might be a bit selfish, but I struggle with fitting in my exercise routine AND motivating my son to exercise as well. This is partly because he's not interested in getting on the treadmill or riding the elliptical or any of the other things I like to do at the gym. In fact (LOL), the one time I talked him into getting on the elliptical, he was one miserable kid! He was only on level 1. (I don't know if you've ever used the elliptical, but it is HARD). I can't remember how long he lasted. However, I do remember him saying, “I am never doing this ever again!” 🙂 So, I'm going to have to wait a while before I try that again.
Nathan does like swimming. This is one that activity that makes it easy for me to motivate him to exercise.
The only thing is that now that he's at the highest level, there are fewer classes to take and he is most definitely NOT self-motivated to do swim laps. And, guess what? I'm not a swimmer.
Not only that, but at the gym, he doesn't like going into the locker room because the men walk around naked and that makes him uncomfortable. As a result of this, it has been well over a year since he's done any kind of significant swimming.
I signed him up for a swimming endurance class this weekend. The class starts in April. Being that it's been a while since he swam laps, he needs to strengthen his muscles so that he can feel successful when he returns to swimming.
So, I did some research and this is what I found:
FLEXIBILITY and CORE TRAINING are essential to preparing your body for success, no matter what the preferred sport or activity.
This is where the motivating your kids to exercise starts to come in. If your child has a preferred exercise or activity, you can discuss with him or her the importance of flexibility and strength to help achieve greater success.
- Lengthens muscles and connective tissues
- Reduces risk of injury
- Increases range of motion
WHAT HAPPENS TO MUSCLES DURING WARM-UP?
Stretching out your muscles results in
- Increased blood circulation to muscles.
- Blood in muscles warms up which raises your core temperature.
- Increased oxygen is available to muscles.
- Increases in blood circulation and oxygen flow through your body means an increase in available energy to use during your workout.
- Greater flexibility in your muscles and connective tissues.
Flexibility is another word for the ability of your muscles and connective tissues (ligaments for example) to stretch. This frees you up for greater movement ability and helps prevent muscle strain injuries and movement injuries.
Two (2) REAL LIFE Examples of what can happen if you don't stretch properly and/or don't have enough flexibility
- When I was a lot younger, in shape, and working out regularly, I injured myself during an advanced step aerobic class. How? You may ask. Well, the teacher was late and shortened the warm up period. As a result, my muscles were not properly warmed up and I tripped going over the step and fractured my foot. So, the lesson here is: “Even if you're in shape, stretching is still REALLY important.
- Fast forward a few years to post-pregnancy, out of shape, overweight mama (me). I used to love roller skating when I was in high school and a few years after. So, I was so excited to get out on the skating rink when we attended my son's first grade skating party. I got almost around the rink once when a kid skated in front of me. I swerved to avoid him, but lost my balance and fell with my leg bent backward, pulling a ligament in my knee. Not only did I lose my balance more easily because I was overweight, but my leg wasn't flexible enough to prevent the injury. It might have helped if I had stretched out a bit beforehand. But what would really have helped prevent the injury is if I would have prepared ahead of time for the skating party and stretched and practiced my balance before I went out on the rink for the first time in over 20 years.
3 Benefits of Core Training
- Increased stability – What this means is that you will be less likely to topple over if you try to stand on one leg, for example. Remember my story about the skating rink? Well, in addition to not having enough flexibility, I was overweight and out of shape in the middle/abdominal/core area. Thus, I toppled over onto my bottom and twisted my leg back.
- Increased strength – Anytime you increase strength you are making your life easier. Core strength is important for good posture. Poor posture over time can lead to back and shoulder pain, and even increase risk of back and shoulder injury.
- Increased Endurance – This means that you won't get tired as fast.
As I've been adding to this post this week, I've been trying to be more creative in motivating my son to exercise. I've also been thinking again about the different ways he's been active this week:
- Nathan walked around the church on Sunday. He actually does this every Sunday because he doesn't feel comfortable interacting with people. So, he walks, before the service, and after the service. One of these days, I am going to put a pedometer on him to see how much walking he's doing. 🙂
- He did some light stretching and strengthening on Monday morning, and then daddy and son went on a short walk around the apartment complex where we live. Total time 30 minutes or so.
- He went swimming with dad at our gym (I haven't given up on getting him to go) on Tuesday.
- Nathan and dad went on a short walk in the morning on Wednesday. In the afternoon, they went to the local bus station because Nathan wanted to see the new fully electric bus that was just put into action. He walked around taking videos and pictures for at least an hour. He does this almost every week (visit a transit center and videotape buses or trains).
- Tomorrow he's helping his dad do the shopping for church and they are going to the local recreation center to swim.
- Saturday night he will be helping his dad at church with the cooking. He'll be on his feet for an hour at least.
Many of these activities aren't actually “exercise,” but they do count as being active and they burn more calories than if he was just sitting around on the computer or watching TV.
As the weather improves, we'll be taking more nature walks.
Don't forget that nature walks aren't just good for science studies. They're also a great way to motivate your kid to exercise.
So, these are just a few of the ideas I have on how to get yourself and your kids to be more active.
What about you? What ideas do you have that will help motivate your kids to exercise?
Click here for my post, “Why Exercise Beats the Winter Blues”
Check out the Ace fitness website for lots of great ideas. You can even show your children who are possibly interested in PE as a career the endless possibilities for certifications.
Below are a few links to help with specific exercises.