As with several other areas of self-care, modeling and participation are key approaches for introducing deliberate physical activity to young people. The modality of contact may influence options available in developing activity or fitness, but in all cases the goals should be achievable, with positive reinforcement (eg. be fun!).
Providing a young person with some basic information about the benefits of physical activity may increase their motivation. Apart from general fitness, they may not know that physical activity can potentially also:
- Reduce anxiety
- Improve mood (e.g. depression)
- Improve sleep
- Assist in stabilising weight / regulating metabolism
- Increase confidence and self-efficacy
- Promote other health-seeking behviours (e.g. nutrition)
- Increase pro-social activities and connections
- Assist in managing cravings
- Reduce risk for other diseases (heart disease, diabetes, etc)
- Be incorporated into a mental health recovery plan
In a collaborative way, a practitioner and young person may develop some ideas about how to bring some physical activity into the young person’s daily life. A starting point may be to walk together to the local shops and get orientated to the neighborhood. Modelling normal incidental exercise and reflecting on it may be necessary for young people who have grown up without positive role models in this area.
Where a young person has identified that they would like to improve their exercise level or fitness assist them to set goals [link SMART goals] and invite them to be ‘experimental’ in trialing new experiences and reflect on how it went afterwards. There are benefits from, wherever possible, a team member being alongside the young person as they try out new things, supporting them to take risks, develop trust and learn teamwork
Examples of activities
- Walking during supportive conversations instead of sitting
- Where the practitioner feels able, do some exercise together (walk, jog, gym, skate etc.)
- Participate capacity & confidence-building programs such as The Outdoor Experience, Out Doors Inc . Local councils often offer great programs at a low cost as do many youth organisations.
- Reclink and other Community-based sports clubs
- Indoor rock-climbing
- Fitness Apps (e.g. Couch – 5K)
‘Getting fit’ is a goal that both workers and young people can relate to. Consider ways to prioritise physical activity at your service. Lunch time kick to kick in the park (all in), investing in a punching bag, table tennis table or even ‘pedometer wars’ (who can clock the most steps in an hour / day / week). Looking for ways to include and motivate young people who may be intimidated by formal ‘sports.’
Warm summer days were amongst the quietest ones for staff of an inner city drop in clinic for homeless young people. Rather than wait for young people to venture inside, the doctor and nurses enlisted the help of a cricket bat and old tennis ball to do some impromptu health promotion. The laneway cricket has now expanded to a nutrition program made up entirely of a blender and an extension cord (fruit smoothies in the laneway). It is gaining momentum with young people who would not consider going to the clinic, participating in health promotion activities none the less.