Every child needs exercise, but every parent knows that scheduling the recommended 60 minutes of moderate physical activity each day isn't easy. The challenge is magnified when your child doesn't like or struggles to participate in the group sports and activities most schools provide. Soccer, baseball, hockey and cheerleading aren't for everyone. Kids who are easily distracted, uncoordinated, shy or don't enjoy team environments may prefer one of these five ideas for fun and exercise that help to limit the anxiety that can result from forced group participation:
You don't have to endure nature's elements to scale a wall. Indoor rock-climbing is a popular activity offered by many sports clubs and fitness centers, and it requires concentration but very little teamwork. Your child might enjoy buying and wearing special equipment, such as helmets and gloves, which are usually required. There's also the fun of learning to scale the wall by placing your hands and feet into the grooves and dents in the wall. The sport trains the cardiovascular system, builds muscle and strengthens the bones. Plus, there's nothing like the sense of accomplishment when reaching the top.
Kids who are detail-oriented and appreciate a little competition should try a course of disc golf. The game is usually played outside in a park and requires the player to throw a Frisbee or plastic disc toward a target, such as a metal basket or a tree marked for the purpose. Kids can move through the course at their own pace, playing at a level that suits them. Hiking through the terrain, throwing the disc, and jumping up and down to celebrate successful tosses burns calories and builds aerobic stamina. Plus they can ease social anxiety by only including one or two close friends or classmates.
Dance is popular activity for many kids, but Irish dance pulls upon different skills than ballet or jazz. Your child might enjoy learning the steps and routines made from various combinations of ball changes. The Celtic-inspired costumes and music can also appeal to a highly imaginative child by triggering an interest in history and folklore. In addition, since the dance style is high-energy, it works the cardiovascular system and builds bone, muscle and coordination. The dance is often performed in teams, but it is possible to learn the steps through private training and perform as a soloist.
Nurture your child's love of animals with horseback riding lessons that teach proper posture, grooming, jumps and runs. The activity also requires a lot of outdoor time and builds a sense of community and sportsmanship. Although emerging equestrians perform while sitting on their animals, they burn calories and exert themselves by caring for the horses, mounting, dismounting and walking around the ring. A child who responds well to structured environments will appreciate the rules and timeless traditions inherent to the sport.
While some kids crave structure, others respond better in an environment with loose rules. Roller skating provides an aerobic workout in a social space that provides easy escape from bullies and cliques. With a set of good skates and a few inexpensive classes, a child can learn figure eights, spins and jumps that will build muscle strength and full-body coordination; sideline activities like video games might appeal to young skaters with short attention spans. A skating rink that keeps momentum going with fun songs like "The Hokey Pokey" can help sustain interest in this calorie-burning sport.
An exercise routine suited to a child's personality will help him or her make new friends and build self-confidence. Other options like bowling, gymnastics, trampoline and martial arts appeal to many kids, and they are sometimes offered by programs like 4-H and community recreation centers. Athletic success doesn't have to result in trophies, but when the right sport comes along, your child might soon be coming home with a medal or two.