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How To Instill Good Health & Fitness Habits in Kids

How To Instill Good Health & Fitness Habits in Kids

Instilling healthy habits in kids can seem like an overwhelming task but as coaches or parents, we have a responsibility to educate children

A lot of coaches freeze up when asked the question, “What are good health and fitness habits for my kids?”

It can be a bit intimidating to step into the world of youth health as most of the recommendations and information out there are built around creating better youth athletes and not so much on how to set them up to be healthy adults. Addressing nutrition, especially for children, is a sensitive and crucial conversation. It’s pivotal for us, as fitness coaches, to guide our clients and their children in establishing and maintaining a wholesome, balanced lifestyle from early on.

In this piece, I will lay out a few general principles for coaches to consider when working with youth or giving their clients with kids advice on how to approach health and fitness with their own kids.


Sleep is a foundational pillar for the overall well-being and development of children, significantly impacting their cognitive, emotional and physical growth.

Adequate sleep is vital as it sharpens attention, enhances learning and consolidates memory, laying the foundation for academic success and effective problem-solving.

It is also vital in maintaining energy balance and metabolic health, and is crucial for managing hormonal balance and reducing the risk of childhood obesity and metabolic irregularities.

Sleep plays a profound role in mood regulation and emotional resilience, crucial for fostering healthy social interactions and stress management, enhancing overall mood and reducing irritability.

It is during sleep that physical growth and muscle development primarily occur, thanks to the secretion of growth hormone. Sleep is also essential for a child’s daily exploration, learning and interaction with the environment.

Establishing a consistent sleep routine is crucial, since it promotes a smoother transition to sleep, contributes to better sleep quality and duration and instills lifelong healthy sleep habits.

Ensure kids get on a consistent sleep routine that allows them to get to bed early and get the recommended amount of sleep for their age, at a minimum.

Play & Physical Activity

Integrating play and physical activity into children’s lives lays the foundation for a lifetime appreciation for movement, and this appreciation is so important to develop at an early age. When children develop a love for movement, they unconsciously adopt a habit that integrates into their daily routines, going into their adult lives as a habit rather than a structured chore. This appreciation is essential as it acts as a precursor for daily physical activity, enhancing overall well-being and life quality.

Physical resilience and adaptability, developed through diverse and enjoyable physical activities, empower children to face and overcome challenges. This development of resilience is pivotal; it not only promotes a sense of accomplishment but also encourages the pursuit of active and fulfilling lifestyles through all of life’s stages. It’s this resilience and love for movement that act as shields against numerous health complications, ensuring the sustenance of both mental and physical health.

The habits ingrained in the early phases of life reflect in adulthood, impacting cardiovascular, metabolic, cognitive and mental well-being. 

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Kids should, at a minimum, have unstructured play on a daily basis. When incorporating structured physical activity, ensure it is enjoyable and with the intention of moving better and longer.


For our young ones, nutrition should be uncomplicated and centered around whole foods. It is essential to realize that the nutritional needs of children are not just miniature versions of adult requirements; they are magnified due to the demands of growth and development, making healthy eating even more crucial during youth than in adulthood. The importance of nourishing foods transcends the mere aim of achieving physical growth; it’s about laying down the essential groundwork for lifelong health and well-being.

The avoidance of overly processed and refined foods most of the time is integral in this balanced approach to nutrition. Providing children with a varied, nutrient-dense diet while minimizing the intake of processed foods is not about restriction; it’s about nurturing their bodies and minds, instilling in them an invaluable understanding of nutrition’s profound impact on well-being. It’s about shaping not just their dietary patterns but their lifelong relationship with food, steering them towards a future where their bodies and minds are harmoniously nurtured by the foods they consume.

Variety and Color: Opt for a diverse range of colorful fruits and vegetables.

Early Introduction: Early exposure to varied food items can shape long-lasting food preferences.

Involvement and Choice: Involve children in food selection and preparation, and offer choices between healthy options.

Positive Associations: Avoid force-feeding and foster positive associations with nutritious foods by making them enjoyable and engaging.

Introducing healthy habits from an early age is crucial, and as fitness coaches, we play a vital role in influencing and educating parents and children about balanced lifestyles. Children, just like adults, deserve to be nurtured and educated about their health needs, especially due to their ongoing growth and development.

Remember, our role extends beyond coaching to become influencers (the beneficial kind) of a healthier, more informed generation. By empowering parents and educating the young, we can contribute significantly to shaping healthier, more balanced future generations.

See Carl’s previous column here.

Carl Hardwick, CEO of OPEX Fitness & CoachRx, is a strong advocate for bringing honor to the coaching profession and raising the value of all fitness coaches. He lectures frequently about program design, business systems, and building a sustainable coaching career. Follow him on Instagram @hardwickcarl and OPEX Fitness on YouTube

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