Getting Your Tweens to Exercise Without a Battle

Getting my son to get off the couch is an ongoing challenge. Most parents already know too many of our kids are overweight. According to the CDC, one-third of all children and teens are either overweight or obese. They don’t get enough exercise and eat too many unhealthy foods.

how to get your tween to exerciseMichael is among those ranks. As he’s gotten older and let’s be honest here — his discovery of video games — has turned my once skinny boy into a tween now needing husky sizes. Since I write a lot about health issues, I know the potential dangers of his wider girth. Beyond the physical issues, being overweight can cause self-image issues. Michael already has a low opinion of his abilities and his extra pounds isn’t helping.

We eat fairly healthy – there’s not a lot of junk food in the house (I even stopped buying ice-cream unless it’s a special treat) and he doesn’t drink soda or juice – so what he eats isn’t really a problem. It’s his lack of movement.

Michael does not enjoy playing sports. Since his coordination problems make it harder to kick and throw the ball well, his interest has waned as he’s gotten older. His poor coordination makes riding a bike a challenge so this summer I made him take daily walks with me around the block. Now that the temperatures are cooling off and winter will arrive, that won’t be as easy. And a 10 minute walk is clearly not enough.

Trying to motivate Michael to move is an ongoing challenge. I keep trying new things. I signed him up for taekwondo earlier this year and that has been great. He does it twice a week and it does get him moving, but he rarely works up a sweat. I even asked a sports medicine physician for ideas and he said to try video games that incorporate movement, but I think that would require us to buy a new gaming system for the TV. It seems every idea I come up with, he puts up an obstacle. We’re members of the local YMCA, but he doesn’t like the gymnastics center because it’s too crowded and he’s not a fan of the water so the pool is out. And he said he would consider walking the track, but that’s boring.

Michael hasn’t hit his growth spurt yet so his doctor isn’t too concerned yet. She wants to wait and see what happens as he gets taller (his dad is over 6 feet tall and skinny). I know I can’t be alone here. I know Michael’s autism has made some activities more challenging for him, but what are some of the things you do to get your tweens and teens moving?

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MaryBeth Matzek

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