Dad plays soccer in the park with his two sons, all of them laughing

How to get active when you’re a non-sporty parent

I love to watch sports. I’ve seen thousands of games. I’ve been enthralled by the Olympics, gotten up early or stayed up late to watch tennis matches. I’ve watched multiple movies and documentaries about sports and athletes. Sports are fascinating, inspirational, and truly a source of so much joy in my life.

But as for my own athletic endeavours? Well, as a kid, I shied away from many organized sports.

And yet, I did love to move. I would ride my bike everywhere. I loved swimming at the local pool or lake. My friends and I would play tag, chase each other up and down on playground equipment, and count how many hula hoop spins we could do. That was my movement as a kid.

Growing up, I also had friends who didn’t love sports at all and had no interest in being active. Some had always been more enthralled by the arts, science, cooking, or reading. Some tried sports in phys ed class and didn’t find anything they loved to do. Some tried sports and felt embarrassed at not being good at them. But some just never had the desire to be “sporty” or active.

And then along came kids

Instinctively, you know that movement is important for kids. And when you reflect on that, you probably realize that movement is important for you too. 

But is it too late to embrace movement as an adult? There’s no need to run a marathon or join your local adult baseball league. If those kinds of things don’t work for you, you can still get the health benefits and the joy that come from movement in multiple other ways. 

Find something (or some things) that you find enjoyable. It could be as simple as walking! It might take a few attempts to find that activity that you will enjoy but when you do, it’s so worth it. 

How can you begin to move?

Baby steps. There is no need to rush into focussing on any one thing.

  • Accept your hesitancy

It’s completely understandable that there might be moments of doubt, of inadequacy, or fear of embarrassment. You might also get frustrated.

Case in point: my 10-year-old and I decided to run a 5km together and I hadn’t run in many years. The race ended going up a hill (who designs a course with a hill at the end?). Let’s just say my daughter was exposed to words I had hoped she wouldn’t hear for many, many years as I cursed my way up that hill.

But when you find the thing(s) you like to do, doubt, frustration, or embarrassment can lead to confidence and a whole lot of self-esteem.

  • Look for options

If you feel like you don’t know where to start, there are in-person and online classes for everything (basically!). Join an in-person running club, a dance class, or learn to juggle from the comfort of your own living room using online classes.

Look to release stress with yoga, boxing, or axe throwing.

If you want to meet other parents, look for local activities such as stroller groups with your kids or drop-in exercise programs with childcare options. Joining a parent site on social media is a great way to discover options.

You can build movement into your schedule by using your bike or walking to run errands.

Get a hula hoop (my 81-year-old mom has a weighted hoop she loves to use and to show off with to her grandkids. Boasting is an often underrated part of an active lifestyle). 

Plan hiking outings with friends.

Find a pool with lane swim drop-in times and stick to the slowest lane (if that’s where you feel most comfortable).

  • Involve your family

Being active with your family is one of the best ways to bond. There are so many ways to become active with your family. You can dance, run in the sprinkler together, plan family hikes or bike rides, or work on a family garden. 

  • Embrace, encourage, and join in with your children’s choices in movement

If your kids love playing organized sports, consider having them practice with you in the backyard or schoolyard. Throw a ball back and forth or take turns being a goalie and shooter.

Ask them for their advice or tips. They will be thrilled to know that they’re teaching you instead of the other way around. Offer to help with practices, to be a carpooler, or to organize post-game get-togethers. 

The more you immerse yourself in the sport your kid loves, the more you’ll learn about it (and perhaps want to take it up too). 

Why embrace movement?

  • The health benefits! We’ve seen the commercials, we’ve heard the news, and we’ve read the studies, movement is preventive medicine, it helps prevent or manage many health problems.
  • Movement brings about better sleep. And who doesn’t want better sleep more than parents?
  • Being active boosts your energy. And, as per above, with kids, you know how valuable any extra energy can be!
  • Movement brings stress relief. Because… kids.
  • Being active can result in social interaction. Or time on your own if that’s what you crave.
  • By getting active, you’ll be a strong role model for your child.
  • Confidence! Challenging yourself to get out of your comfort zone is one sure way to gain confidence and to be fierce.
  • The achievements. While the purpose of movement isn’t necessarily to “win,” there is great achievement in choosing to embrace movement.
  • It’s fun! When you find that movement or sport that you love, you will undoubtedly have a good time.
  • Family time. One of the greatest benefits of movement? The chance to bond with your child in a whole new way.

Key takeaway

When you make the move from thinking of yourself as “non-sporty” to someone who embraces movement, you will reap benefits that will last you a lifetime.

Read more about non-sporty activities:

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