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“That’s lazy exercise!”

Posted by on Sep 16, 2009 in Blog Posts |

I was at the park with M the other day. As usual, we started on the swings when a little girl, maybe five or six bounded over and jumped up next to us. She was a “wirey” little girl, as my dad would say. Her father yelled over, “Sally, get off that swing now! That’s lazy exercise! We didn’t come here for that! Get off and run around!” Sally’s smile evaporated, but she did as she was told. I can just imagine her dad reading some CDC guidelines, or a handout from the pediatrician saying, “Your child should get 60 minutes of vigorous, supervised exercise daily…” Though probably well-intentioned, Dad is likely not helping to instil in Sally a love of activity, or a love of her body.

Have you ever watched a child on a swing? Do you remember how free, how powerful, how utterly in-the-moment and in your body you were?
What Sally is learning is that exercise is not fun, it shouldn’t feel good. Maybe she’s learning that you exercise only so you don’t get fat. What happens when she gains weight in preparation for puberty adn gets a little belly? How will that impact her self-worth? How will Dad react?
Pressuring kids to be active, just like pressure with food often backfires. A parent’s job is to provide the opportunity for activity in a pleasant, fun setting. A more effective ways to help kids be active is to limit screen time. They will come up with other things to do. Go for a walk after dinner together, have a scavenger hunt to look for leaves or listen to the cicadas. Ride a bike, head to the park, enjoy open gym time at the local rec center, and yes, even swing on a swing.
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