Sensitive Situations

5 Tips to Overcome Participant Barriers and Make Kids' Fitness Fun!

Overcome Participant Barriers to Make Kids Fitness Fun!
Overcome Participant Barriers to Make Kids Fitness Fun!

Finding joy through movement is an important part of the PowerUp programs. A lot more goes into physical activity than just the exercises themselves. PowerUp activities are designed for all children to be engaged, be active and have fun! Still, some children are hesitant to participate. This is completely normal! There are always going to be barriers and can see and others we might need to uncover.


PowerUp Fitness offers a variety of unique fitness programs! PowerUp programs are designed to provide children with the opportunity to become more active, physically and mentally. Learn more about us and our mission to PowerUp children's development with fitness and fun in our About Section!


Here are some of the common barriers with strategies and ways to overcome them!


1. Low Engagement

There is always a participant or two that is hard to motivate and get active. Here are some tips to engage these participants so they’ll be excited to get moving!

  • Provide multiple activities and let them choose which ones they like best and in which order you’ll do the activities! For bigger groups, put it to a vote!

  • Talk it out! It seems simple, but if a student is consistently not participating, privately ask them why they aren’t participating and how you can help.

2. Middle School Interest

Keeping participants engaged during the day is hard, but keeping middle school youth motivated to participate can be especially challenging. Here are some tips to fix this situation.

  • Have a prepared plan for your workout that day. We’ve found that teaching fitness activities like a typical group fitness class (at a fitness center) is really successful with this age group.

  • Know your participants’ names and form a friendly relationship with them. It’s important to get to know them.

  • Find ways to incorporate their interests, like music! Use their input to build a playlist that can be played during fitness activities.

  • Participate with them! Be a role model, they are more likely to engage in the activities if you're participating too. Alternative idea - find role models close to their age range, high school or college student volunteers.

3. Acting Out/Calling Out

One of the most common situations is having a participant habitually call out. This can disrupt your group management and interfere with other participants’ ability to participate. Here are some ways to handle this!

  • Establish ground rules about when participants should be listening and when participants can talk freely. If participants forget this rule during the year, remind them!

  • Assure the student who constantly calls out that raising their hand (or established method) will guarantee them the opportunity to be heard and express themselves.

  • Try putting that participant in a leadership position to demonstrate exercises or to explain the rules of a game.

  • If the participant continues to call out, talk to them privately about what might be going on. Many times attention-seeking behavior has a deeper meaning.

4. “Has to Finish First” Participant

Some participants have to finish first every time. They think they need to be the winner of every activity! While their enthusiasm is great, it’s important for students to recognize it’s not always a competition. Here’s how to try and fix this issue!

  • Remind this student that not every activity is a race!

  • Implement group activities within the session so participants have to engage and use teamwork in order to finish. No one person will finish first!

  • Encourage the student who always wants to finish first to help other students so they can finish too.

  • Activities like bunny hops, where more is better, can serve as a good example that finishing first isn’t the important part!

4. “Shoe is Always Untied” participant

A participant whose shoe is almost always untied when it comes time to participate is usually embarrassed to try the exercises or has something personal going on. The best way to approach this is to:

  • Take the participant aside before or after class without raising the eyebrows of other students. Simply talk to them and provide encouragement.

  • Try to figure out what is making them uncomfortable in class, the group, the exercises, their abilities, etc. If possible, come up with solutions together!

  • If the participant isn’t willing to talk to you, see if they’d be open to the idea of talking to their guidance counselor or a classroom teacher.

Download this printable pdf version of

our PowerUp Tips for Sensitive Situations.


You can also take a look at our activity

bundles or even request sample lesson plans to learn more!


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PowerUp Fitness is an Advocate Member of the National Afterschool Association and proud partner of Active Schools US.