How can I motivate my child to walk for fitness?

Motivating kids to do anything when they don't want to is tricky.  However I did hear a famous Christian pastor say once that values are caught not taught.  I would then suggest that you walk and invite your kids along.  Keep being an example of health and fitness to them.  Make sure they see you doing what you suggest that they should do and continue to invite them.  Make it fun, walk somewhere that they may want to go.  We have a coffee shop that is local where we can walk with the kids and get them a small healthy treat.  Also gear the walk for their fitness level not yours.  Keep it short at first and make it casual this will make it easier for them to say yes in the future and will allow you to slowly increase the speed and/or distance.  Most importantly have fun.
A good way to motivate your child to get out and walk is to find a neat place to take your child. Suggest a walk on the beach, go to your favorite park, or find a mountain to hike. Getting your child out and about while also spending quality time with them will help motivate them to want to go for more walks in the future. Make it fun and enjoyable so it doesn't seem like a chore. Then reward them with a healthy treat on the way home, like some frozen yogurt or a stop at your local farmer's market for some fresh fruit! Kids learn best by example so go ahead and set the stage and watch your child follow your good lead!

Lead by example and walk with them. Show them how its done and be excited and enthusiastic about. Many habits are formed as children and carried to adulthood. Teach them that if its possible walk. Walk to the corner store, to a friends house, to school. After dinner walks are great exercise and wonderful family time.  When their friends are over, encourage the kids to go for a walk. Teach them riding in the car is long distances and a mile or two are not long distances.

Roy Miner
There are several ways of motivating a child to walk for fitness. I feel that one of the best ways is to try to make a game out of it. Children like to win so I suggest that you make a race out of your walk. Challenge your child, with small but healthy rewards. Say " I think I could walk to that sign faster than you can." Most children will accept any challenge that makes the task fun. Tell them that if they beat you you will give them a special reward. But the most important thing is to get them moving in the first place. To do this, I suggest that you may ask them to go to walk to the store with you to buy them that toy that they wanted. Or reward them for the amount of time that they spend outside, away from the TV, computer and game systems. The more time spent outside walking the bigger the reward. Once they start moving, the easier it will be to keep them moving. And eventually you will probably be able to do away with the reward system. I hope this will help you to motivate your child to walk. If I can help you in any way just send me a message. Have a great and healthy day.
Lead by example. Your children want to participate in the activities that make you healthy/happy. No child will pass up the opportunity to spend quality time with a parent even if exercise is the method. Make family walks a part of your daily routine and your family outlook will improve!

Children can be really resistant to something that they don't find interesting or fun. However, there are several techniques that can be utilized to motivate them to walk for fitness. Since they are so impressionable you can "guide" them into the idea of how important it is to you. Once they see that you are serious about it they will want to be too. You can do some research and find some child celebrities that they admire doing exercises, or stating how exercising is important to them. You can also, find one or two of their friends and parents to join along. That might make it more fun and enjoyable. 

Play games! Family walks are great but if your child is not interested then it may not be as pleasant as everyone would like.

A great game to play will be “I Spy.” My family and I used to play this game all the time and it keep us busy for a while! Find an object, could be a car, a house, a bird, a plane, you name it! Having the others guess things about the item, things such as color, size, shape, etc. The harder the object the longer it will take to guess and the more time will have gone by on your walk.

Does your child like to play sports? My father and I used to bring a football with us on walks. We would setup play and run routes. Of course, be sure you are in a safe area.

Motivation for anyone can be difficult, children and adults are different. I have an active school age child who I encourage with fitness and we play games when we walk.

We play walking games and race, I give her a half block head start or I run backwards and vice versa.  We have begun hopping on one leg while walking to see who can hop the farthest. Most Elementary school children still play some form of hop scotch so helping them to jump can lead to more activity.

Jumping and walking seem to go hand in hand with children, as it always starts as a walk and ends with a jump or run.  Remember to help your little ones by encouraging them when they fall down. Shoelaces can be the culprit so as a parent; I am the shoe lace sergeant. Jumping is a big thing for little people, anything they have fun with they love!!

If fitness is fun we adults will do it also. Enjoy your child, find your inner child and play... I played freeze tag the other day at the park. I was the one of 2 moms in the park, we took turns running and the children had a blast. Some of the overweight kids decided to play tag and we let them, everyone wants to be included. Tell them "My teacher says your legs just need to run", a direct quote from my 7 year old.

Once you get the moving, you can have regular fitness outings. Once again, 3 things. 1. Play Games While Walking. Jumping is movement so it is walking too for fitness purposes. Let little ones jump in puddles; it will encourage them to have fun with fitness. 2. HAVE FUN, Fitness is fun; you must make time to have fun. Find your inner child and enjoy your child. This will encourage them. 3. Keep moving, if you move children will move. All children follow or mimic their parents. If you are active they are active. Be the best parent you can be, by moving and keeping yourself focused on building a healthy future for your family.

Motivation and encouragement are needed by everyone, especially children. Let’s help them by making fitness fun and they will become more active in turn.

Depending on your child’s attitude to walking you might want to approach walking for fitness in different ways. Young children hopefully have not yet developed negative associations with walking so going for a hike is a tremendous adventure. During our recent camping trip we took a short hike through the wilderness to introduce the concept to my 3 and 6 year old. It was their favorite part of the trip except for the roasted marshmallows. Another option is to start evening family walks before or after dinner instead of a TV show. Going together is going to always be more exciting and gives you an opportunity to talk about the day.

Other options I would recommend involve combining walking with another favorite event. Examples include going to the park (walk to the park or choose one with nature trails), going to the zoo (try to see how fast you can get to the next exhibit), or even go to the mall (many malls have walking routes). 

Children usually respond best to showing rather than telling. If you are going on a walk make it exciting and they will want to come along as well.

  1. Studies show that when people have a strong social support network they are more likely to succeed when trying to change their health or adopt a new behavior. If you tell your friends and family about your health and fitness plan they will be more likely to help support you which will increase your chances of success.

Continue Learning about Benefits of Walking

Walk Faster, Live Longer
Walk Faster, Live Longer
When you’re recovering from heart disease, walking is a wonderful way to get back into shape. Many people are just learning that how fast you walk can...
Read More
What are the psychological benefits of walking?
Dr. Michelle Cleere - Sharecare Fitness Expert, PhDDr. Michelle Cleere - Sharecare Fitness Expert, PhD
Walking has similar benefits as any exercise: increased energy, improved mood, more clear thought pr...
More Answers
Why is it good to walk in the morning?
Julie DuBois, NASM Elite Trainer, RDJulie DuBois, NASM Elite Trainer, RD
Walking in the morning has many benefits. It helps to get your blood flowing, increasing alertness f...
More Answers
What Is Fish Oil Used For?
What Is Fish Oil Used For?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.