Children's fitness Help & advice

How can I get my child to be more active
by Steve green

One of the great challenges we all face as parents is finding ways to improve the amount of physical activity that our children participate in. The demise of children’s exercise levels and rise in obesity amongst our children is well documented. In order to understand the problem more clearly it is important to understand why it has come about in the first place. The reasons are varied. However by understanding them it is then possible to put in place a realistic plan to help tackle this modern day problem.

It is possible to categorise these issues under the banner of LIFESTYLE.

Although it is impossible to group everyone as behaving in the same set way, I am often presented with similar stories during my lifestyle analysis sessions with parents and children.


  • Breakfast eaten quickly and often consisting of high sugar cereals, or in some cases no breakfast at all.
  • Packed lunch sandwiches, fruit cereal bars etc
  • Evening meal, usually cooked
  • School PE is in many cases quite a short lesson that can often be high on learned content and low on activity levels.
  • Many children are driven to and from school and evenings are often spent on electronic gadgets.


The children often present with poor postural control, low levels of athleticism poor sleeping habits. Low concentration levels. Some show signs of mood changes and behavioural issues. Their motivation levels are effected by inactivity and it is then difficult to get them participating in exercise.


We are what we eat

We now have more information at our fingertips with regard to food than we ever have had in the past. We have a greater amount of choice and cooking programmes dominate our airways. However convenience foods often make up a large proportion of many families weekly shop. Medical evidence tells us that high amounts of fat, salt and sugar are not good for us. Convenience foods often have unusually high amounts of these. These ingredients have a devastating effect on our bodies if they form a mainstay of our families dietary intake. Countries with lower obesity levels in their population are often found to be serving fresh foods that have not been changed and adapted by the food industry. Government health guidelines use the EATWELL PLATE as a way of educating us on achieving a balance in our diet.


Healthy eating food groups


The plate illustrates how the greater proportion of our diet should be made up of fruit and veg and the smallest part made up of highly processed foods. It is also in my opinion very important to take time over your meals. This allows from proper digestion and in turn allowing you to eat the amount that your body requires.


Body image, type and posture


The way in which we see ourselves and our children can often play a major part in our exercise and food choices. Medical and the sports science are quite divided on ways to measure our health with regard to areas such as BODY MASS INDEX and body type. Below iis a simple illustration of a few different ways to view body type.


Examples of body shapes and types

Examples of body shapes and types


Body type and gender have a significant influence on the way we respond to certain types of training. These must always be a consideration when looking at appropriate exercise activities. Posture also has a large role to play in exercise efficiency and body image perception. Work to improve posture particularly with younger children will pay great dividends later on, particularly through growth spurts.


Examples of goodand bad body posture


In summery the way that we appear is not always a true reflection of the state of our health. ”Your child’s external appearance may not always be a true indication of what is happening on the inside of their body. You can be skinny on the outside with a high internal body fat percentage” (Samantha Clayton, 5 ways to help motivate an inactive child), Similarly poor posture can often form a strong impression of the way in which we perceive some one’s health and wellbeing.


Guidelines to improve health activity in young children

Many bad habits are often created initially as a way of saving time.


  • The drive to school
  • The convenience meal
  • The take away meal
  • Leave a child with a gadget to keep them quiet
  • Concerns over children safety effecting play
  • Eating meals on the go
  • Watching television whilst eating meals


There are many different behaviours that have become the norm. Achieving a balance between all strands of family life is difficult. I believe that children should take regular exercise every day. It is now well documented that electronic gadgets upset sleep patterns. Reading a book rather than activity on a gadget before bed will allow for a more restful nights sleep in both parents and children. Breakfast at a table with a variety of foods and eaten slowly will allow for proper digestion and set all concerned up with the best start for the day. It will also help to regulate snacking throughout the day. A walk to school at least twice per week will create good habits for the young child as well as improving general fitness for all concerned.

During my consultations I am often met with the same objections:

1) I don’t feel hungry when I wake up, this is often caused by late night eating which effects sleep patterns. Solution eat lighter and earlier in the evenings.

2) I am too tired to get up in the morning so I don’t have time to eat breakfast. This is also caused by late eating and electronic gadgets disrupting sleep. Solution turn off the gadgets and go to bed earlier. Poor sleep has been linked to weight gain issues.

3) I don’t have time to take my children to sports clubs.

Solution there are many places that run activities for children, check with your local authority or sports club they are often put on at times that will help working parents. Activity for ourselves and our children should be viewed in the same way as we approach other areas of life such as work, it’s something that needs to be done, it is not optional it is part of what makes us function. Without it we get ill.


  • Sleep Well
  • Eat Well
  • Exercise and Play Regularly


Useful Links

Children and exercise - the inactivity time bomb -

Teens are becoming even wimpier than before -

NHS Choices advice for parents: overweight children -