School districts vary widely in the amount of physical education they offer in the curriculum, and by 9th grade physical fitness is usually no longer a daily part of the school curriculum. Find out how much physical activity your child is getting each day at school and what sorts of activities they are doing in gym class. This will give you a better understanding of their overall level of physical activity. According to a recent Institute of Medicine report on physical activity among young people, even the best physical education curriculum fails to provide the necessary 60 minutes of recommended activity a day.
It’s especially important for parents to step in and fill the void by encouraging physical activity after school and on weekends. One of the most effective ways for parents to do this is by modeling good behavior. Organize family activities that incorporate physical activity, such as walks and bike rides. Outdoor chores such as raking leaves or shoveling are a good way to squeeze exercise into a busy weekend. Finding a physical activity that you and your child can do together, such as swimming at the local YMCA, is a great way for both of you to exercise and for you to spend quality time together.
If you are concerned that your child is not active enough, try to find ways to make physical activity appeal more to them. If your child enjoys competition, suggest competitive team sports that might appeal to them. If they are more solitary, running or swimming might have more appeal. If they are shy about exercising with other children, home exercise videos could help their be more active.
Lessons in Sports
Explore lessons and organized sports for your 9th grader. These might include gymnastics classes or soccer or basketball. As your child grows and their physical abilities progress, your child may express an interest in sports that even a year ago were of little interest. Expose them to as many options for physical activities and sports as possible. Community organizations like the local YMCA can be a great exercise venue for the whole family.
Encourage your child to try out different sports and activities and to find one that suits her. Some children resist team sports but can excel at individual sports like tennis or track. Make sure you let their sample a variety of sports to find their interest, and think of non-traditional sports, like fencing or frisbee, that might appeal to her. Reward and encourage persistence, so that even if your child is not a “natural athlete” your child learns to enjoy participating and pushing themselves to improve.
In addition to being aware of whether your child is not getting enough exercise, pay attention if your child appears to be exercising too much. It is around this time that many children become susceptible to pressure to lose weight and develop a certain body type through exercise and diet. Children who participate in certain sports or activities that emphasize weight targets or body shape, such as wresting or ballet, can be especially vulnerable to this kind of pressure.