Tag Archive | Self Determination Theory

How to Motivate Kids to Start Exercising – and Stick With It

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Photo courtesy of L. Marie’s Flickr (http://ow.ly/do1YC)

Starting something new – like regular physical activity – is hard. In fact, the only thing harder than starting something new may be sticking with it. When it comes to getting kids and teenagers moving more, the challenge isn’t getting them off the couch just once; the real challenge is making physical activity a part of their daily lives.

It’s critically important that we find creative new ways to get kids moving more. In July, leading British medical journal “The Lancet” published research asserting that physical inactivity causes 6-10% of deaths from major NCDs (non-communicable diseases), such as type II diabetes, heart disease, and breast and colon cancers. The research linked exercise to mental wellbeing, too. Exercise fosters everything from improved sleep patterns and reduced stress, to stronger relationships, social connectedness and a sense of purpose and value. [1]

Opportunities for kids to engage in regular physical activity are often centered around youth sports. But joining a youth sports team can be a big, scary leap for kids who may be more accustomed to playing video and computer games than moving the ball down the field. Just think: kids can play videogames in the comfort and security of home, without an audience of peers watching. Game engineers design for player psychology, with just the right combination of challenges and motivators to ensure a player feels competent and successful when playing. Players advance at their own speed. Knowledge gained through failure – say, using a huge sling shot to catapult an angry bird into a green pig in a pyramid but missing the mark only just slightly – can be directly applied towards a second chance, where success is that much more likely. So the question is: what if we could use the tricks of game design to help kids who aren’t sporty experience physical activity in fun way that’s more similar to gaming, and thence less intimidating?

The good news is, we can. Borrowing gaming principles to make physical activity appealing to kids who aren’t inclined to be physically active is exactly how Zamzee was born. Our research partners at HopeLab took a close look at academic research on how to motivate regular exercise (by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, for example) and popular writing on motivation in the business world (by Daniel Pink). Then they made up a nifty acronym, CAMPR, so the rest of us can understand and remember what these researchers are talking about. Here’s a quick explanation: Continue reading

How to Motivate Physical Activity: Are rewards the key?

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Photo courtesy of Terren in Virginia’s photostream on Flickr: http://ow.ly/crHiS

It can be hard for kids – and families – to make physical activity a regular part of daily life.. But the right amount of incentives can help make physical activity both rewarding and fun.

The truth is, kids do all sorts of fantastic things spontaneously, without being rewarded for it. One morning, for example, they might declare they want to be the next JK Rowling – and then spend hours writing stories. For parents, it can be particularly encouraging to see kids remain dedicated to a worthwhile task, an important life skill for any of us.

The question is: How can we foster this type of intrinsic motivation, the impulse and determination to continue just because something feels right, to help establish patterns of healthy behavior, like regular physical activity?

These days, kids are less likely to be physically active than kids in previous generations. Sadly, it’s the exception for kids to run around and get daily exercise, not the norm. For many parents it’s hard to find safe parks or free time to drive children to afternoon sports practice. The result is that sedentary behavior and its negative impact on kids’ health has become a serious problem. Continue reading