So, I've been doing some reading about fitness and motivation. I've read that intrinsic factors, internal motivators, are the most likely ones to contribute towards sticking to an exercise program. Some of these factors are: autonomy, self-efficacy, teamwork, and knowledge.
So, today, I found myself with a house full of children, eight total, all of whom we've been trying to get more active. Three of these children are my own and the other five live on both sides of me. I needed a way to motivate them to exercise that did not rely on me or their mothers to nag them, that had an element of self-guidance, and incorporated teamwork.
And so, we came up with the following idea. Together, the girls and boys were going to ride their bikes a total of five hundred miles over the next three months. Sounds crazy? Well, not so much.
I took all eight of them outside and we measured the distances of our driveways and the distances between. (This took some time because I only had a 24 foot tape measure.) We figured out how long the distance was for a variety of combinations: neighbor to neighbor, end of first driveway to end of third driveway, distance from the beginning of one driveway-up and down the second driveway-and up the third driveway. And then we figured out what percentage of a mile each combination was. Based on this, we now knew how many laps of each course one has to complete to make a mile (or two). For the longest course, which turned out to be a fifth of a mile, each child simply has to ride it ten times to come up with a grand total of sixteen miles for all eight children.
I then sent home each child with a chart to fill in each time they went for a bike ride. The idea is that together, whether separately or at the same time, these children will be working towards a goal. I will update everyone on their progress and hopefully this will spur some motivation to contribute through both competition and teamwork. And, of course, upon completion of the 500 miles, we will find some way of rewarding them.
Getting kids to incorporate exercise into their lives is very important. Its much easier to do if you find a way to make it fun. Hopefully, these kids will find this fun and not something else to report to their therapist in ten years.
Hunter, Shelley. "Promoting Intrinsic Motivation in Clients." Strength and Conditioning Journal, 2008: 52-54