Help! My Child Won’t Exercise

 As a pediatric physical therapist, I often prescribe home exercises for my patients. When parents follow through with these exercises on a regular basis, the potential benefits exponentially increase. The problem arises when a child begins to view these exercises as a chore and parents receive push-back. Here are a couple of tricks I’ve learned along the way to help motivate your kids to exercise.

Use a Reward SystemHelp! I can't get my child to exercise

            Creating a simple star chart will help keep your child motivated throughout multiple exercises. Using small rewards once the chart is complete will also help your child develop a sense of pride in his/her work. These rewards do not need to be material- or food-focused; rather a reward can be as simple and gratifying as having a special Friday movie night. Try and develop a reward system that supports your child’s hobbies/interests. This may be a great jumping off point for instilling a healthy relationship with physical activity.

Change up your Routine

            Just as your personal exercise routine can grow monotonous over time, the same may hold true for your child’s home exercises. Asking your therapist to update your child’s exercise regimen is a great way to boost enthusiasm for home exercises. Home exercises should be updated regularly as your child strengthens and improves his/her skills in order to effectively challenge your child. Once a goal is met, work with the physical therapist to develop new exercises that will keep your child on the path to success.

Turn it into a Game

            A large part of my job as a pediatric physical therapist is figuring out novel ways to motivate children to partake in therapy sessions. I have seen that the best way to ensure enthusiastic participation is to re-tool something that may seem like a “chore” and transform it into a fun game. Instead of a mind-numbing walk on the treadmill, why not consider creating a fun obstacle course around the backyard? Or use a high energy scavenger hunt in which your child has to complete various physical feats before proceeding to the next level? Re-imagining a traditionally dull exercise into something fun can be a deeply rewarding experience!

NSPT offers physical therapy services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!