We all know the benefits of an active lifestyle, and, wanting the best for our kids, we want to share those benefits with them. But imparting that love can be difficult.

But kids have unique rewards to reap from regular exercise. Exercise can give them a healthy outlet for stress just like it does for you and me, but for junior high and high school kids, it can also improve self esteem (particularly important during those tough years), teach them how to make friends outside of school, prove to them that they can do hard things, and of course set them up for long-term health. 

To help you help them, we’ve compiled our five favorite hacks for getting your kids to fall in love with exercise the same way you have.

Share Your Active-Lifestyle Passion

Sure it’s obvious, but consistently inviting your kids to join you on your trips to the pool or courts or whatever it is you personally love to do will open up the opportunity for them to approach it on their own terms. They may turn down your offer every time, but you never know when they might be in the frame of mind to take you up on it. It’s important not to force this one. As we all know, exercise is deeply personal, and the things you do to maintain your active lifestyle won’t necessarily be their activities of choice. However, if they try it out and decide that it really is not their thing, it’s time for tip number two.

Register Them For Lessons

Besides providing an opportunity to be social and meet new people, signing your kids up for group lessons in different sports exposes them to the great variety that athletics has to offer. From rock climbing to tennis to dancing, there are lessons for just about every kind of activity and sport, including group lessons for solo sports that your introverted kids might prefer. No matter who they are, there’s a sport or activity that they’ll love. They just have to try it to find it. The added bonus of exposing them to a variety of activities is that they’ll be developing skills that will help them participate in activities their future friends might love. It’s never a bad idea to be sports-flexible. 

Sign Them Up For Personal Training

This tip actually came from one of our clients! Even if it’s just 30 minutes each week, signing them up for one-on-one time with a personal trainer will help them feel comfortable navigating the gym and its equipment and give them a taste of the accomplishment that comes from beating PRs and lifting really heavy things (I don’t care who you are, getting a loaded barbell off the rack, down to your chest, and back up feels good). Plus, once they discover how much better they feel after a session, they may just hit the gym on their own time. 

Have a Regular Family Exercise Outing

Once a week, get your whole family together for some quality bonding time. Whether it’s a standing tennis date, volleyball game, or a rotating activity that you switch off pickingbe it a hike, hot yoga, or paddle boarding—getting your endorphins flowing together will help your kids associate the high with family time and exercise. Being active together is a great way to bond as a family and give your kids memories that will make them want to have the same traditions with their kids someday. The awesome thing about this one is that it can last a lifetime and often becomes even more fun and meaningful as your kids get older. If you’re starting a new regular activity after a few years of inactivity (thank you, COVID), be sure to take precautions to avoid injury as you start back up with your active lifestyle!

Make Sports an Expectation

Just like getting good grades, set the expectation that your kids participate in a sport through junior high and high school. This doesn’t mean your kids should be expected to be a star Varsity player, and in fact, it’s important to protect your kids from youth athlete burnout. What level they play at doesn’t matter. But requiring that they commit to doing something will help them grow to be more well-rounded students, and later, adults. Learning to be a good teammate, showing up for practice everyday whether they want to or not, and pushing themselves to be better are all life lessons that will take them far no matter what they pursue.

Just Help Them Find Their *Thing*

The great thing about active lifestyles is that they’re not one-size-fits-all. Whether your kids are introverted or outgoing, coordinated or daringly off-beat when the music starts, there really truly is something for everyone. But getting into a sport or regular activity can be tough. It requires re-working your schedule, sacrificing other things, and being okay with being bad at something. And of course, without the built up strength and endurance, it can be both mentally and physically challenging to keep up. But with a good example to follow, enough exposure to the variety available, and expectations in place, they’re bound to discover the love that you and I already have. 

P.S. For younger kids, try out a fun obstacle course that they can take turns designing for a fun way to get them involved in their activities!