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When runner Shannon Brady returns home from a race, there’s still more distance to cover: Her daughters, ages 1 and 2, borrow her sweaty sunglasses and “run a race” of their own around the house. “My husband and I are avid runners, and we make sure [our daughters] see us lace up and have fun doing it,” says Brady.

Like Brady, many parents aspire to pass down the joy of fitness to their children. A 2022 survey conducted by the fitness brand Life Time found that 89 percent of parents enjoyed spending time participating in outdoor recreation and sports with their kids, while 80 percent said they’d like to inspire their young ones to do more physical activity to build their children’s fitness. So, how do we nurture a love of movement in the next generation?

It’s a critical question because there’s evidence to suggest that our current approach to raising active kids may not be working. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children aged 6 to 17 exercise at least one hour per day, but only about 24 percent of kids meet this criteria. Children’s fitness regimens have been slowly declining in the years since the pandemic, even though the physical advantages of activity are undeniable. Working out from a young age may stave off heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis, among other health issues. And, when it comes to the mental side of things, regular exercise has been found to reduce anxiety, boost mood, and improve self-esteem and cognitive function, and also help kids cope with stress.

However, when it comes to instilling a love of running, biking, swimming, and other activities into our young ones, clinical health psychologist Sarah-Nicole Bostan, PhD, says it’s more about teaching them to love the feeling than to love what the workout can “do” for them. “Teaching children to appreciate their bodies and all the opportunities a strong, agile body affords—irrelevant of weight or shape—lays the groundwork for a lifelong positive relationship with movement, even in a world where the emphasis is often misplaced on physical outcomes or appearance,” she says.

Shaping your children’s fitness mindset

Here are four ways parents can instill a positive relationship with movement in their kids.

1. Lead by example

Research shows that children imitate their parents to practice new skills and operate in society. So, a child who sees th

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