Tracy Anderson on Getting Kids to Exercise
There’s no mystery to the fact that—whether they want to acknowledge it or not—we’re our kid’s primary role models. Here’s how to help establish good fitness habits.
Making Exercise a Family Thing
Just like we teach our kids to brush their teeth and wash their hands, we must teach our children to move their bodies. There are far-reaching consequences to letting our kids grow up sedentary: Not only can it harm their health, but it can damage self-esteem as well. I’m not suggesting that you put your 8-year-old on a treadmill, either. Instead, the best thing we can all do as parents is lead by example and make physical activity a central part of the way we spend time together. Build activities into your weekly routine, whether it’s through a pick-up game of football, or a weekend bike ride, hike, or day at the beach swimming in the ocean.
“The best thing we can all do as parents is lead by example and make physical activity a central part of the way we spend time together.”
And don’t worry if you haven’t been working out: Leading by example can be a great way to reach your goals, since there’s nothing quite as motivating as doing what we think is best for our children. I know many parents who have kicked their smoking habit simply because they couldn’t explain it to their kids! Same holds if you find yourself bowing out of the weekend hike. As you work toward your fitness goals, you’ll feel great getting to show your little ones that because you take care of your body, you’re fit enough to enjoy a family game of football in the backyard. (Yes! Moms, too!!) In the same vein, encouraging your kids to put down the iPads and go outside is harder to justify if your face is constantly buried in a screen—so use your kids as motivation to get up and move, too.
Teen Eating Tips
Taste is one of our five senses and enjoying food is one of life’s simple and visceral pleasures—and it should be learned young. It makes me sad that so many young people see food as enemy number one, and something to be avoided in lieu of “Quick Fix Diets,” diet pills, and other weight loss products that not only rob them of essential nutrients, but can pose serious health risks, too.
“Taste is one of our five senses and enjoying food is one of life’s simple and visceral pleasures—and it should be learned young.”
My advice to teens is simple: Find joy and delight in clean, healthy food and develop a palette that underlines the nutritional habits you’ll rely on for the rest of your life. Taking the time to make good choices as young adults is both physically and mentally important: When we are growing, we need nutrient-rich foods to support our bodies and minds. The best part is that a great diet is a self-fulfilling prophecy, since your body will come to expect, and crave these nutrients. And so the virtuous cycle begins!
Teens can also do themselves a favor by starting the day with breakfast. Studies continue to show that teens who eat in the morning function better through the school day, so there’s no time like the present to start loving a green smoothie to go! And skip the coffee: Teens should avoid caffeine at all costs because it seriously damages hormone production and reduces the body’s ability to absorb iron and calcium, both of which are essential to growth.
“The best part is that a great diet is a self-fulfilling prophecy, since your body will come to expect, and crave these nutrients. And so the virtuous cycle begins!”
Meanwhile, not to sound like a grandmother, but load up on vegetables: Learn to love and experiment with salads and raw vegetables—the more local and in-season the better. Besides all of the good things they’ll do for your gut, vegetables are great for skin—particularly skin that’s undergoing intense hormonal changes.
It probably goes without saying, but teens should embrace daily activity as a lifelong commitment. If you’re on a sports team, that’s great—if not, ensure you’re getting an hour of exercise per day, and make it so essential to your well-being, that you never stop as you age.