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Poll: Bribe Your Kids To Exercise Much?

I would love to push my skinny little sixth grader outside, lock the screen door behind him, and strongly encourage the boy to go play in the woods.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid that the only person my son would find to play with in the woods is a child molester.

Yet there are calories to burn in this life and muscles to be built, aren’t there?

As part of a military family, I know that fitness is a job skill and a PCS prop for many military kids. My older children used organized sports to make friends and fit in to a new community every time they moved.

But all kids are different. My son hates organized sports with a passion matched only by his mother.

So I got this new idea:  why don’t I just pay the kid to exercise? !!

That shrieking you hear is coming from my father who does not think we should pay kids for doing what they should be doing anyway.

Yet changing physical behaviors—like exercise-- is one of the hardest things for anyone to do.  Even when people have had heart attacks and can cut their risk of death by 50% if they just take up exercise, they just don’t.

So in a crafty study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, researchers found that rewarding exercise with as little as $5 in cash per week improved exercise attendance among heart patients.

So I’m wondering why I can’t just steal this idea for my money loving kid. He already has a swim lesson every week that he loves.  Maybe I could take him to the pool and pay him to swim laps once or twice a week.

After all I finally started exercising when I figured out what motivated me.  My husband links his exercise to the PRT and being allowed to stop working at his desk.  We all need the push over the edge to start something new.

So if it works for heart patients, why not our kids?

When I ran into (OK, stalked) Surgeon General of the Army Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho at the AUSA conference in Washington, DC, she was all about the Army’s new Performance Triad-- eat right, sleep well, be active.

But she wasn’t crazy at my notion of paying a military kid to exercise.  As much as there is research to show financial incentives work, she has also seen research that shows incentives don’t work.

Horoho thought that instilling the value of the behavior itself in an individual was a stronger way to go.  “Why not reward the exercise with a family activity?” she suggested.

That might work -- if my favorite family activity was not a stroll down to Dairy Queen.

Still, when it comes to exercise and diet, the information and advice that is by-the-book doesn’t always work for real kids.  When I talked to a couple of my military girlfriends, they had two words of advice for me:  bribe him.

It is enough to make me wonder how other military families manage the exercise thing:  Do you think your kids get enough exercise?  What do you do to encourage them more?  And would you bribe a kid to start exercising? Take our poll and then check out the results.

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