The American Council on Exercise Offers Tips on Motivating Children to Get in Shape

Posted: Aug 23, 2000 in

SAN DIEGO—San Diego is host to many of the nation’s top athletes working toward peak performance at the Olympic Training Center. But according to a recent report by the California Department of Education, San Diego is also home to a large number of out-of-shape school children.

Of the thousands of fifth-, seventh- and ninth-grade students in San Diego that took a 1999 fitness test, more than 40 percent ran a mile so slowly that they failed an aerobic capacity test. Nationwide, the U.S. government estimates that 6 million children are now overweight enough to endanger their health. The American Council on Exercise (ACE), which works to promote healthy, fit lifestyles for children and adults, is concerned by these statistics.

“Not every child is going to become an Olympic athlete,” says Ken Germano, executive director of ACE and founder of its youth fitness initiative, Operation FitKids, “but we need to get them away from the television and turn them on to exercise and fitness. More than 90 percent of U.S. children watch several hours of TV each day, which can lead to a sedentary and obese population.”

Now that the 2000 Summer Olympics are almost here, parents can harness the athletic zeal promoted by television coverage to get themselves and their children off the couch and moving. But before turning off the television, families should sit down together and watch some Olympic programming, working in a discussion of what types of events the children most enjoyed watching, and which ones they might like to try themselves.

ACE offers these suggestions for parents on how to motivate their children to exercise.

· Don’t just tell your children that exercise is fun—show them! Go biking, hiking or in-line skating together. Join younger children on the jungle gym, which is a great piece of equipment for building strength and coordination.

· Include children in vigorous household tasks, such as gardening or washing the car, by making them fun activities rather than chores.

· Plan outings and activities that involve walking, such as trips to the zoo, a theme park, the mountains or even the mall.

· Check if your local gym or fitness center offers special exercise programs for children.

· Create a reward system to motivate children on the move. Recognize good fitness habits with new equipment, such as a soccer ball, jump rope or even a bike.

· Emphasize the positive aspects of participation in organized sports, such as improved health, teamwork and self-esteem. Avoid focusing on competition and failure.

· When trying to motivate teenagers to exercise, appeal to their need for entertainment and social interaction. Whenever possible, include their friends in your fitness activities.

· Exercise and nutrition are equally important to good health. Be a good role model with your own eating habits, and don’t battle with children about food. Make changes in eating habits gradually, and continue to include some food items they enjoy. Offer reasonable alternatives as you replace high-fat, high-sugar foods with healthier items.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the benefits of physical activity and protecting consumers against unsafe and ineffective fitness products and instruction. As the nation’s “workout watchdog,” ACE conducts university-based research and testing that target fitness products and trends. ACE sets standards for fitness professionals and is the world’s largest nonprofit fitness certifying organization. For more information on ACE and its programs, call (800) 825-3636 or log onto the ACE Web site at

Operation FitKids is the youth fitness initiative of the American Council on Exercise. Through the initiative, “recycled” exercise equipment is provided and fitness facilities are created for children with no access to physical education programs. Facilities are established at high schools, Boys & Girls Clubs, community centers and housing developments.

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