Did you doctor tell you your larger bodied child needs to exercise more?
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Exercise for children has become somewhat of a “hot topic” since the war on childhood obesity began.
Many parents go for their general “health check” with their child, leaving discouraged or feeling like it’s all their fault that their child doesn’t exercise more. Most of the time, these parents have tried everything they can think of to help their child become more active, or feel like they “constantly have to hold their child’s” hand or push them to do any kind of physical activity.
Sadly, children in larger bodies are often perceived as “lazy.” But usually this isn’t the case at all.
So why then is changing your child’s activity routine so difficult? Let’s discuss some common reasons:
1. Your child might actually be getting enough movement every day. Many children can be quite active and still exist within larger bodies. The general recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is about 1 hour a day (combined) for children aged 6-17. Before setting out on promoting even more movement, I would first figure out exactly how much your child is moving each day. Small things like chores, playing, and gardening also count for movement.
2. Unfortunately for many children in larger bodies, the focus on movement becomes weight loss instead of enjoyable movement. But this can have the opposite effect, could potentially create disordered activity habits, and make children dread movement. It’s important to instead promote positive, fun, and enjoyable ways to help your child move their body.
3. Your child might feel ashamed or embarrassed. I hear this one from kids all the time. Usually, when a child comes to me for occupational therapy, they tell me their main goal is to “keep up with their friends.” I’m told that they completely miss out on the activity because they don’t want to get made fun of for being last or sweating more. Despite many gains being made in body positivity, many children in large bodies are still stigmatized. Our sessions offer a safe space for children to practice and grow their skills and gain confidence to be active with their friends.
4. They might have a skills limitation. Many children have a strength or coordination difficulty that keeps them from playing and exercising. This gets missed for children in larger bodies because it is assumed that they just “don’t want to” be active. The research has begun to show a high correlation between children in larger bodies and developmental coordination disorder. I highly recommend an evaluation with a skilled occupational therapist or physical therapist if you notice that your child has a hard time catching/throwing a ball, tripping or falling a lot, or seems “weaker” than their peers.
If you have been struggling with motivating your larger bodied child to get moving, I want you to know YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There are ways we can help. OT 4 ME is a body positive practice that helps children feel and be their best selves!
If you are located in Florida, I offer free parent consults! Just click here and fill out this simple form to request yours.
Let’s make healthy fun,
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