So You Want Your Tween to Exercise? Here’s Help!

Last fall, I wrote about my attempts at getting my 12-year-old son to be more active and get a little exercise. Since then, we’ve tried a few things and thought I would share the results.

For those who missed the first column, my son would much rather spend his days sitting on the couch playing Minecraft ideas for getting your tween to exercisethan playing outside or playing an organized sport like his sister, who seems to have either a basketball or soccer  game or practice daily. Michael also has autism and has poor coordination skills so sometimes playing sports isn’t easy or much fun for him since it can be such a struggle. About a year ago, Michael’s doctor expressed concern about his weight gain – about 20 pounds over 18 months. He has yet to hit puberty and hadn’t really changed his eating habits much so she attributed the gain to his lack of activity as well as a potential side effect from his medication. We signed him up for taekwondo, which he does twice a week, but he doesn’t break much of a sweat.

With his waist not getting any smaller, I decided to take it up a notch. After talking about taking him to the YMCA for an orientation on how to use various machines, I finally did it in December. We went a few times in December where he may be exercised about 10 to 15 minutes each time – whether it was walking on the treadmill or riding the bike. Not great, but some progress.

The other way I decided to get more movement into his life was to use something he loved – video games. For Christmas, we got an Xbox 360 with Kinect. For those unfamiliar with Kinect, the player is the controller. The console came with a couple of games such as a raft riding game where you have to jump, volleyball, soccer (which his sister loves) and ping pong. Again, he’s not getting much exercise, but again I feel it’s better than nothing.

We still have a ways to go. It’s no secret Michael likes to snack so I’m trying to keep a closer eye on what he’s eating and how much. I also am looking into healthier snacks to have around the house (which would be good for all of us) And when warmer weather returns (we live in Wisconsin), I look forward to going on either daily walks or bike rides with him around the block.

I keep telling him it’s not about his appearance, but rather his overall health. By staying at a healthy weight, he can reduce his chances of developing health problems later on in life. I don’t know if that message is resonating, but I keep at it. While we have had some success in the past two months, I know more is needed. If you have any ideas that have worked for you about keeping your tweens or teens active, I would love to hear them.

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MaryBeth Matzek

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