October 25, 2023 By Victoria Rae, Interdisciplinary Trainee Presenting Movement in the Park Did you know that children between 6-17 years of age need one hour of exercise a day to stay healthy? Unfortunately, only 25% of children get enough exercise. 75% don’t. There are several consequences for physical inactivity. Some of those consequences include: heart disease obesity osteoporosis (weak bones) type 2 diabetes high blood pressure cancer. It can be challenging to motivate children and adolescents of all abilities to get the exercise they need. So, how can you make it a more positive experience and increase their motivation to exercise? I've been leading Movement in the Park classes for 16 months. In that time, I learned a lot about how to make exercise more fun and accessible for people with disabilities. That's why I was invited to speak at the University of Idaho’s 2023 Child Development Conference in August. As a matter of fact, this is the fourth time I’ve presented Movement in the Park at a conference. After four presentations and more than 150 classes, I've learned a few strategies on how to plan and create positive exercise experiences for people of all ages and abilities. Read on for my top three tips based on those strategies. Tip #1: Know your audience Make sure you know your audience's ability level and interests before you try exercising. The last thing you want to do is push them to do things that are too hard. It can end up ruining their relationship with exercise. You should also make sure that you have a good relationship with your participants. This will help them feel safe and comfortable trying new things. Taking these steps will help to set up a strong foundation of trust that you can build on as you navigate the world of exercise together. Tip #2: Create choices and allow choice-making As you get to know the participants you’re working with, you can create choices on types of exercise that align with their interests. If your participants like sports, you can have them choose between playing soccer or basketball. If your participants enjoy nature, you could offer to take them on a hike. If they like to run around, you could offer to take them to a local park or track. There are many ways to be active that can be more fun than going to the gym or following a living room workout on YouTube. Along with presenting different types of exercise, you should also allow your participant to decide how much of that activity they’d like to do. This is called secondary choice-making. For example: If they choose running, let them also choose how far or how long. If they choose push-ups, let them also choose how many. If they choose yoga, let them also choose how far to stretch. If they choose basketball, let them also choose the type of gameplay. Allowing choice is critical when working with individuals with disabilities. We should honor their autonomy and let them choose how they want to get active. Tip #3: Make it fun! This comes with knowing your participants’ interests. By considering their interests, you can create a positive exercise experience that's fun and inviting. An easy way to make exercise fun is by listening to upbeat music that your participants enjoy. If they like to listen to Taylor Swift or 80's rock, play it while you exercise! Whatever music they like to listen to, try to let them listen to it while working out to build their interest and create positive associations. Playing sports or games like tag, soccer or basketball is another easy way to make exercise fun. Even dancing can make exercise fun! Some people love to dance on their own or follow a tutorial. Regardless, all of these are great options for cardio when a two-mile jog is the last thing your participants want to try. No matter what you do to make exercise fun, always make sure it's something that everyone enjoys. Remember, the more it aligns with your participants’ interests, the better the experience will be for them. Fitness can be very intimidating and inaccessible for people with disabilities. It's important to make exercise positive and inclusive to the needs of the people you're working with. One way to do just that is to join one of our Movement in the Park exercise classes. These free, fun fitness classes offer adaptable movements for people of all ages, abilities and fitness levels. And, of course, everyone is welcome! For more information or to sign up call 208 885 7054.