A balanced diet and exercise are very important for proper growth and development of young children. With all the technological advancement in today’s world, most children are investing their time in modern gadgets rather than spending their time outdoors. These lifestyle changes are making children more prone to various health problems where obesity is at the top on the list.
Interaction with technology, urbanized lifestyle, academic pressures combined with other factors has led to creating historically low rates of youth physical activity. Parents, teachers and fitness educators must realize and educate others about the importance of frequent physical activity for kids. Awareness and support for this is more important now than ever because it has never before been as disruptive to our adult lives.
Your kids do not need to go to the gym or see a workout video to learn some exercise. But yes, they do need to exercise, as does everyone, in the form of simple physical activity. Kids need to stay active. It not only is important for their physical well-being but it is equally important for their mental development. There are various reasons why exercise for children is important.
Let’s list a few here -
- It helps them improve focus.
- It helps in strengthening the immune system of children.
- It releases the feel-good hormone called endorphins that keep the children in high spirits and in a happy mood.
- It keeps the child’s heart healthy and cardiovascular problems in check.
- It helps in strengthening the lungs of the kids.
- It helps in keeping the cholesterol levels at bay.
- It regulates the blood pressure in children.
- It helps in maintaining good brain health and also improves their memory.
- It is effective in avoiding obesity.
- It keeps their bones strong.
- It helps in preventing various types of cancers in children.
- It helps in releasing the good hormones and stops the bad ones.
- It helps in fighting various infections and allergies.
- It helps them sleep better.
Now let’s discuss ways to encourage exercise for children -
Become a role model for your children: A very important way to encourage exercise for children is through modeling healthy behaviors in your own life. Kids constantly pick up cues on how they should behave and act based on what they observe us doing. we need to exercise ourselves to encourage it in our children. Just telling your children to stay active is not enough. You need to specifically show our children on a daily basis what a healthy active lifestyle looks like. The kids should see you exercising and breaking a sweat and that’s how they’ll eventually know the importance of exercise and include it in their daily lifestyle.
Promote activities appropriate for the age: While your teenager might want to join a community basketball league, your kindergartner might not want to do the same activity. Don’t try to force your children into the same activity, it should depend on their age and personality. For younger children, activities like a walk in the park or swimming can be involved. Older children could join school sports teams, classes for karate, dance, horse riding, basketball, yoga, etc. The crucial time to build bones starts before the teen years and lasts till the mid-20s, that is the time when bones grow to their maximum thickness. You as a parent can help your kids prevent the onset of osteoporosis by encouraging them to do weight-bearing activities like jump rope, running games, pivoting and balancing.
You can always consult a pediatrician and figure what’s the right activity for your child and what isn’t.
Instill activities as a family: Go out as a family. There are many things that you can do with your children. For eg, on the weekends you can go to the park or the beach or an outdoor venue to play football, cricket or frisbee together. Getting out of the house removes most of the temptations that keep us sitting such as watching TV or being on the computer/phone. Fun physical activities and mental stimulation with family and friends in an encouraging environment give children the sense that they've achieved something new and challenging. They feel better and happy. By getting out together you can find more ways to connect all while reinforcing a healthy active lifestyle.
Limit the usage of gadgets: These days nearly every house has not one but multiple TVs, cell phones, tablets, and computers at their disposal nearly 24 hours a day. With such availability even if one wants to escape technology, it’ll be very difficult. While screens do provide some benefits, but the downsides are massive and can possibly complicate some issues such as ADHD and sleep problems. They also limit ones physical activity making them inactive and stagnant. Having too much of anything can remove its positive benefits and turn it into negative. For screen time, this is especially true because it takes over all your time and energy and drains your health.
You as a parent need to set limits on the use of TV and computers and even phones on a regular basis. If you don’t do this, your children will simply settle for playing video games every free minute they get. Putting limits on the time they have to play games and watch TV will force them to find more creative and active ways to get energy out.
Our society and culture have changed so much over the years that for some of us exercise feels almost unnatural. Children who twenty to thirty years ago would spend all day playing outside, now sit inside all day. This process needs to get reversed. Exercise for children doesn’t have to be difficult, it should be a no brainer. All you need to do is get moving. For children, you need to encourage them to do physical activity for at least 30 to 60 minutes every day. Movement boosts attention and energy levels due to improved circulation and blood flow. This helps their body to deliver more oxygen and essential nutrients to your tissues, which, in turn, allows them to do more and feel better throughout the day. Exercise can be a lot of fun for all age groups. Get active today and move towards a better and healthy lifestyle for your kids and for yourself.