When Do Kids Start Losing Interest In Exercising?

When do kids start losing interest in exercising? According to a new Swiss study in the Psychology of Sport and Exercise, most children stop engaging in physical activity simply for “the fun of it” at age nine. Over the course of two years, researchers from the University of Geneva, Switzerland, followed 1,200 students aged eight to twelve. They discovered that from the age of nine, internally driven reasons for exercising began to be replaced by external incentives such as getting good grades in school or cultivating a certain image.

External Motivators

From the age of nine, positive motivators for exercising such as it being fun and good for health are gradually replaced by external motivators like getting good grades in school and avoiding fat-shaming. The children involved in the University of Geneva study were required to complete a questionnaire every six months to determine their motivation levels. This is measured according to a seven-point scale of different motivational factors that may or may not be related to performing the actual activity. The motivational factors include but not limited to learning, health, grades, and avoiding shame or guilt.

New Technologies

In this day and age, it is almost impossible to spot a child without any sort of electronic device. The lure of new technologies has become a problem when it comes to getting kids to exercise as their tablets are able to hold their attention longer. With the advent of technology, young children lose interest in exercising at a quicker rate, and it has become increasingly challenging to hold children’s interest in exercising as they grow older.

Social Environment

The cardiorespiratory capacity in children has decreased by 25 percent in the last two decades, and social environment – or the lack thereof – is one of the biggest reasons. There are fewer play areas for children in the neighborhoods, and parents seem to have become more fearful of allowing their children to engage in outdoor fun. This has a negative impact on young children as they grow up more reluctant to engage in exercises and outdoor activities in general.

Academic Approach to Physical Education

A psychological researcher from the University of Geneva noted that in recent decades, the teaching of Physical Education has changed enormously. Classes in school are more academically focused with children learning mostly about motor functioning, mutual support, and rules. This approach has a direct cost for a child as it reduces the actual time dedicated to moderate to vigorous physical activity, which is already rare outside of school hours. 

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