As a regular at the fitness gym, you’ve made exercise a priority, but have you thought about your children’s fitness, as well? It’s easy to assume kids get enough activity naturally and don’t have to worry about their fitness until later in life, but it’s the habits that are set in motion in childhood that will make a different in their health and fitness for years to come.

Education Is Vital

Kids do receive some health education in school, but parents play the most important role in teaching kids how to take good care of their bodies. Even if you practice healthy habits at home, it’s important to have conversations about why you do what you do and equip them to make their own healthy habits, both now and later. Here’s some advice on how to get your kids educated and interested in keeping fitness a priority.

1. Be encouraging rather than demanding.

Getting kids into fitness isn’t the same as getting them to clean their rooms or do their homework. There are some things kids just need to do because they’re told, but fitness shouldn’t be one of them. Why? The attitude they develop toward exercise now will influence their attitude toward it as adults. If it’s seen as just another chore or requirement, it may not stick once they have the choice.

2. Lead by example.

It’s not only important to teach kids about fitness, but to set a good example. As you probably know from other aspects of life, kids pay more attention to what you do than what you say. If you talk about the importance of exercise and healthy eating habits but don’t go to the fitness center and eat junk all the time, they won’t take it as seriously. Show your kids how to live healthy lives by preparing nutritious meals at home, making good choices when you eat out, and keeping your own exercise routine a priority.

3. Make fitness fun!

Even we adults who work out at the health club on a regular basis can have a bad attitude about it, treating it like an unpleasant chore rather than a privilege. Examine your own attitude about exercise and consider how it may be rubbing off on your children. It’s fine to be honest when you’re not feeling a workout, but if it’s all the time, maybe you need to find something you enjoy a little more. Show you kids that working hard to get and stay in shape is fun, rewarding, and enhances your mood rather than bringing it down.
4. Get kids involved in sports, gymnastics, and clubs.

Physical education classes are on the decline, but sports programs are still a key part of most schools’ curriculum. Encourage (don’t nag) your kids to get involved — and not just to indulge your own competitive nature. If they’re not competitive, they may enjoy a solo sport or activity. After-school clubs are another good way to get kids involved, since they can enjoy activities with peers that share the same interests.

5. Get active together.

Kids are spending more and more time glued to electronics than they are outside. Doing fun activities like hiking, swimming, biking, skiing (or even playing Pokémon Go!) as a family will make it much easier to get kids interested in fitness without even realizing it and establish healthy habits they’ll follow well into adulthood.