Childhood obesity word cloudHealth care professionals have been sounding the alarm on childhood obesity in recent years. Rates have been rising as have the associated health consequences. These include diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, fatty liver disease and cardiovascular disease. What’s more, obese children have a greater likelihood of becoming obese adults. The good news is helping children find ways to be more active can put them on track for achieving a normal weight. Thinking of helping your child get more exercise at the gym? Here are some fun ways to ease him or her into a regular routine.

Understand what motivates your child

Atlanta Journal Constitution food critic John Kessler recently shared his story of shedding excess pounds during the summer before eighth grade. Kessler remembers the taunts of other children as one big motivation for slimming down that summer. Maybe your child wants to try out for track or the school play. No matter the reason, talking about the why of weight loss is an important beginning. Another big advantage of the conversation is it can help you set realistic expectations together and give your child the opportunity to share  about the emotional aspects of being above a healthy weight. Many children experience social isolation, bullying, feelings of shame, and depression. A good workout at the gym will boost the flow of feel good chemicals to improve mood. Approaching weight concerns proactively can also give your child a feeling of control over her physical and emotional health.

Choose a child friendly gym

Ideally, the gym will offer child friendly programs that match your son or daughter’s interests. The treadmill is a great standby but may feel like a boring chore for some kids. Other good offerings to look for include a pool, indoor track, basketball court and spin class. Encourage your child to take part in a variety of activities to exercise different muscle groups and keep interest high.

Bonding time

Jam packed schedules can make getting to the gym tough. Take a look at your family calendar and decide together which things you may need to cut out so that exercise can be a priority. Make gym visits a family affair for extra encouragement and bonding time. Alternatively, your child may want to invite a buddy for joint workout sessions at the gym. Having a gym buddy is a good way to add a little friendly competition, camaraderie and accountability to any weight loss plan.

Be supportive

Offer regular encouragement for your child’s healthy lifestyle habits. Check in and ask how you can help rather than taking over. Again, going to the gym is an important way of feeling in control of your physical and emotional health. Giving your child space to lead this lifestyle change can add to this feeling of autonomy. Remind your child about all the wonderful qualities she possesses and that his worth is not related to his weight. Being overweight does not make you a bad person but it can have negative consequences for health. Going to the gym can be a fun way to get on the lifelong path  to a healthy weight.