Nicki Anderson

Where Did We Lose the Fun with Exercise?

By Nicki On January 8, 2011 Under childhood obesity, Exercise and teens, Getting your teens to exercise, Why teens don't exercise

I recently started training a 14 year old girl. She’s never been interested in organized sports and the idea of exercise is, well, a turnoff for her. She doesn’t understand how people can ‘LOVE’ exercise and finds it odd that people actually do it every day. For me, I totally get it. I too was a teen that resisted exercise because it looked like too much work for something I wasn’t good at.  Friends of mine that were athletic, were naturally athletic. I had to work too hard to look like I sort of knew what I was doing, and failed miserably. It had a negative affect on my self esteem and only reminded me how uncoordinated I was. Athletics was  was not my thing, so I stayed away from any kind of exercise because I thought being uncoordinated meant you couldn’t exercise. After all, exercise was for fit people, not me.

This past week when I was working with my new client she said, “Nicki, why is exercise always taught to be so hard? When I exercise with you I feel like I’m out on the playground with my friends, it’s fun.”  She couldn’t have paid me a higher compliment. What I said to her was, “Exercise is fun, you just have to find the right activity for you. Anyway, exercise is just a formal word for moving fun!” The truth is that for everyone, moving is necessary. When I was a kid we were outside all the time playing. We didn’t have access to snack food the way kids do today and we didn’t have computers to entertain us the way kids do. There are more reasons for kids to sit today rather than reasons to move.  We need to remind those kids that aren’t athletes that moving doesn’t have to be about sports. We also need to remind them of genetics and that every body is different.  We need to teach them to embrace their body vs. being ashamed because they’re not the same size as the latest reality star.  We need to encourage kids to realize the potential of their body and that it is designed to move, they just have to find the movement that feeds their soul, increases their self-esteem and is FUN!”

Unfortunately, kids that aren’t ‘natural’ athletes believe that they can’t be active, but that thought couldn’t be further from the truth. We need to make exercise fun for both kids and adults alike. I have plenty of adult clients that loathe exercise and it’s my job to create an environment of fun. If they’re having fun, they’re going to keep coming back to it and feel good about their experience. If we put exercise in to such a structured box that it becomes exclusive, we will lose a lot of people to inactive lifestyles.

There is no better time than now to teach kids and adults that exercise (formal word for fun movement) can be fun. Create a playground in your basement, or in your backyard that includes a variety of games and activities. There is an abundance now of video games that encouragse activity including Dance, Dance, Revolution, Wii Fit and Dance Mania. If I would have known that exercise didn’t have to be about going to a gym and humiliating myself through some poorly suited exercise class, or joining an organized sport, I think I would have been a lot more active. But kids and adults now have the opportunity to find FUN in exercise. As a fitness professional, that’s always my goal to help them do just that!

Here’s to finding fun in your fitness routine!

Nicki

5 comments - add yours

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Mark Nutting

January 12, 2011

Couldn’t agree more, Nicki.
When kids aren’t the team sport kind of kid (my 2 sons included) what are their options? Very few programs stress the fun of being active. You don’t even need to be talking about exercise, describe it as active play.
I started teaching a kids’ Parkour/Free Running class (8-12yr olds) partly because I thought it was a very interesting concept to explore and partly because my boys were excited by the idea. The key is that it stresses non-competitive, creative, fun movement i.e. running, jumping, rolling, climbing, etc. The kids are having a ball.
Obviously there are many other activities that could work, but the “fun” approach is what is typically missing and so desparately needed. Fun is engaging and will keep them coming back so that movement becomes part of their lifestyle.

Nicki

January 13, 2011

Exactly Mark, I so agree. I find that many of the athletes that I work with, some don’t continue their athletics in college and they have no clue how to begin other forms of activity. So you’re right, getting back to basics, intuitive activity that we all did when we were kids, or at least I remember doing as a kid. Unfortunately, if it’s not on a computer, or in a formal class, kids aren’t familiar with it. Great to see you’re working on changing that Mark!

Susan

January 24, 2011

I think much of this also depends on the athletics they were involved in. For my kids, the ones they had chosen are ones that can easily be part of someone’s “fun” for most of their lives.

My son ran cross country and distances in track. He actually has been running in some ways since he was around three. (He would run laps around the outside of the house when he was bored and make me count them. Personally I think he was a bit hyperactive but he was never on meds thanks to this. habit. He got involved formally with a park district program at the age of 7. We never did the club track things since they seemed to take the fun out of it, although we were approached by a few clubs.) He still runs regularly, even after graduating college. For him, he tends to get antsy without activity, and will sometimes just head out the door for a run at a random time as a result. He has even picked up soccer again, something he had enjoyed through 8th grade. He plays in two adult leagues. (And after being a good player, but never a “star” in his past, he is kind of enjoying being a “star” on his teams now since his level of fitness is high compared to others in the league.)

My daughter played tennis and ran distances in track. She trained in the summers with cross country, even though the CC season was during her tennis season. However, she never lost a match that went to three sets. She was simply able to outlast her opponents. She still runs fairly regularly, although it is harder for her since she is in college, working part time, and volunteering with a tutoring program in the city. But when she can, she goes out for a run with her roommates who ran the marathon last fall. (She ran a portion to motivate one of them who was struggling, but knew she was not in the shape she needed to be to run the entire thing.) And when the weather is nice, she plays tennis just for the fun of it.

Sure it is hard to play football once you are out of school. But running can be done anywhere at any time, alone (if in a safe environment) or with friends. Tennis is one of those things that even senior citizens often still do actively. There are courts in many neighborhoods, and you only need one other person for that. There are many adult leagues for soccer, volleyball, basketball, and softball through local park districts, athletic organizations, and athletic venues. The Foundry by the mall has a regular volleyball league during the spring and summer.

Nicki

January 31, 2011

Susan,

I agree with you about your kids activity of choice. I guess i was speaking more to kids that are like I was, total couch potatoes. I didn’t have the desire to run track, I was fat, who’d want a fat runner? I didn’t want to join the volleyball club I was fat, and short (double whammy). The bottom line of the message is that kids need to be drawn in to a more active lifestyle in a way that is fun and not intimidating. For some kids (like me) the thought of an organized sport is out of the question. So how can we get those kids engaged. I have 4 kids, 2 are naturally active, the other two, not so much. So for those kids that loathe the idea of exercise, especially something that seems exclusive, it’s vital to offer options that are fun as well as have staying power! Thanks for sharing your experience.