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I usually don’t compare people to dogs, but then again, we are all animals by nature. As a dog lover of 6 ( 4 are rescue dogs ), I have 2 labs and a Golden and energy are their middle names, especially the Labs. I know quite well that if they don’t get that 15 to 20 minutes of exercise a day ( we play fetch and an interesting version of dog/person baseball ), they will likely get into trouble or dive me crazy. On the other hand, if they are given the attention to get things off their “paws,” they are loving, relatively calm ( Labs?) , and rest peacefully at night. If this sounds familiar to kids, you are dead on.
The plethora of studies emphasizing the beneficial effects of regular exercise for children far exceed the amount of space for this week’s column. I will instead suffice it to say, exercise is better than any magic pill for both the physical and emotional sides of life. What’s nice is that the effects are immediate and long lasting if they are fun and enjoyable.
But for most kids, exercise is boring unless they are really into sports. This lasts into the teenage years when some then decide to pay attention to their bodies and decide to get into shape or are forced to by that high school coach. The motivation here for most of the teens is to attract the opposite sex and become stronger than the concept of exercise as a form of self-therapy and self-care. That comes into play for many adults. The rest of the teens and adults alike tend to be sedentary and often overweight and depressed.
Now, getting kids to exercise when they don’t want to is a common parental battle often compared to bring a horse to water. On this one, I think we pick this battle for it has to do with both the physical and mental health of our kids. As a loving parent, we owe them a long and healthy life. So, how do we win this one? It’s actually pretty easy especially if you have dogs.
I officially recommend adding running to your parent list of “things to do with my kids everyday,” and watch the benefits before your eyes. Stay healthy.
Dr. Keith Kanner is a Licensed and Board Certified Clinical Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychologist and Psychoanalyst. In addition to a full-time private practice in Rancho Santa Fe, California, he is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine at the University of California San Diego where he teaches both human development and also trains medical students how to better understand and relate to their patients. He also serves as the Director of Clinical Counseling for La Jolla Country Day School in La Jolla, California, and is a Clinical Professor at The San Diego Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. Dr. Kanner also sits on the National Board of Directors for Kids Korps USA, which is the largest organization in the country that teaches children and adolescents the importance of volunteering to help the community at large. As a father of three children, he is also a dedicated baseball, football, and soccer coach.