If you thought coercing your teenage child or sibling into exercising would do the trick, you are off the mark as it won’t make the youngsters any more active, says a new study.
The study found that students who don’t feel in control of their exercise choices or who feel pressured by adults to be more active typically are not.
Middle-schoolers who feel they can make their own decisions about exercising are more likely to see themselves as a person who exercises, which in turn makes them more likely to exercise, researchers said.
“Our results confirm that the beliefs these kids hold are related to physical activity levels,” said the study’s lead author Rod Dishman from University of Georgia.
“But can we put these children in situations where they come to value and enjoy the act of being physically active,” he wondered.
Dishman and colleagues at the University of South Carolina are now looking at ways to help kids identify with exercise at a younger age, so that by the time they reach middle school they are more likely to identify as someone who exercises.
This might mean teaching more structured games in elementary school, integrating physical activities into classroom lessons or expanding community recreational leagues to give kids more opportunities to improve on a particular sport.
“Just like there are kids who are drawn to music and art, there are kids who are drawn to physical activity,” he said.
“But what you want is to draw those kids who otherwise might not be drawn to an activity,” he emphasised.
“What parents and teachers don’t want to create is a sense of guilt for not exercising. The research overwhelmingly found that students who felt obligated to be more active were less likely to embrace activity overall,” Dishman said.