Encouraging exercise with your family


Exercise Habits | Texas Children's Hospital
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It’s summertime! If your children are home from school, this is a great time to take advantage of opportunities encouraging physical activity and to also begin instilling a lifelong passion for activeness and exercise in them. 

Being physically active has numerous long-term benefits for infants, young children and adolescents, including healthy weight management, bone growth and improved sleep quality. In addition, encouraging your children to remain active is one of the best ways of ensuring their optimal health in the future, alongside improving their developmental skills and helping them stay focused and alert in the classroom.

If your children can form healthy habits like these early in life, they will have a better chance at sticking to them into adulthood. This is truly one of the greatest gifts you can give to your child.

Plus, finding opportunities that promote physical activity can be pretty inexpensive and enjoyable for the whole family this summer. Consider these tips, which vary by age group:

Newborns and infants

Physical play is very important for newborns and infants. Try starting with simple activities such as tummy time play, and use interactive toys to help infants develop valuable motor skills like rolling, crawling, walking and more.

Once infants learn to take their first steps, mobile toys can be used to support development of these motors skills even more.

Looking to leave the house? Try finding your local children’s museum, which will often have sections dedicated to interactive play for little ones.

The goal is to find a variety of ways to keep your baby inquisitive and moving!

Young children

Younger children with well-developed motor skills can take part in more challenging activities, so try introducing them to different types of outdoor play – at the park, local pool or even the beach. Don’t forget to practice water safety, and bring along sunscreen!

Parents can easily use daily trips to the playground or park with their little ones to burn off energy, bond and encourage activeness while also offering socialization with other children.

If you want to step it up, consider taking a family vacation to a state or national park, or even try visiting your local arboretum, nature center or zoo. These trips will not only promote exercise, but can offer all kinds activities allowing your children to learn more about the outdoors.

Enrolling your children in public or private lessons for activities like swimming, soccer, gymnastics or really any other team sport is a great way to keep them moving, learning and interacting with others. It can also teach them about perseverance, goal setting and teamwork, and might also turn a particular activity into a lifelong passion.

If your child is reluctant to play team sports, avoid putting pressure on them. Instead, try increasing exposure to a wide variety of activities, and see which one(s) they show more interest in.

Adolescents and teenagers

During this age period, sedentary and/or poor dietary habits might start to creep in as young adults face packed school schedules with limited time for exercise. Your adolescents and teenagers need physical activity in this time period more than ever, especially if they’re looking for ways to manage weight, alleviate stress, promote good sleep and combat depressive feelings.

If free time is short and hard to come by, try encouraging a family walk in the evening after dinner. This is a great way to unplug and talk with your child about what’s going on in their life.

Try to keep it simple, too. Who doesn’t love dancing? Jamming to a song after school is an easy way to get some physical activity in before settling down for homework.

Encourage your children to pursue involvement in a sport or activity through school or outside organizations if they’re interested, but check to make sure training activities are safe and appropriate. Instead of putting heavy focus on performance or success, allow your young one to appreciate general participation.  

If your child enjoys working out, encourage them to find an exercise buddy to keep them motivated. This can be a friend, neighbor or even a family member.

Lastly, summer camps can provide children of this age with great exposure to all kinds of fun, challenging activities, which are typically supervised and geared toward their interests.


No excuses for parents, either! Children will often mimic the habits of their caregivers, so it’s critical for you to promote physical activity with the young ones.

When it comes to getting up and moving your feet, make it a family effort. Take a walk, go for a hike or play with the dog. Challenge yourself, and your children will follow your lead.

Remember to always keep safety and fun at the forefront of these efforts. Also, mix it up! Variety is key to keeping the family interested.

I hope you and your family have a safe summer ahead, filled with healthy activities for all!