Why You Should Encourage Children to Exercise
As adults, most of us are aware of the benefits regular exercise can have on our health and well-being. But how many of us actually think about the amount of exercise our children do? It was much easier when we were kids – rain or shine, we would be outside playing. Whether it was backyard cricket, kicking the footy in the street, or riding our bikes around the neighbourhood, we were outside having fun and getting plenty of exercise.
Sadly many children today don’t know the fun that can be had from mud pies, chasing our friends through the streets, or climbing trees (and breaking bones!). Many children today are overweight and obese from a combination of poor diet and lack of exercise. Physically they are developing lifestyle diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type two diabetes and heart disease, along with knee and hip injuries, and arthritis – conditions and injuries that, in previous generations, where only found in older adults. On the emotional and psychological side, children today are more likely to be bullied and alienated because of their weight and many children are suffering from poor self-esteem, self-confidence, and body image.
Benefits of Regular Exercise for Children
In many cases the benefits of regular exercise are no different for children than they are for adults. In fact, regular exercise in children helps to promote:
- Healthy growth and development
- The development of strong bones and muscles
- Balance and co-ordination
- The development of fundamental motor skills
- A healthy weight and weight control
- Cardiovascular fitness
- Relaxation and stress management
- Improved posture
- High self-esteem and self-confidence
- Good attitudes and habits toward a healthy lifestyle
Regular exercise in children also helps to reduce the likelihood of developing lifestyle-related diseases and illnesses, and provides opportunities to make friends and develop social skills.
How to Encourage Children to Exercise
Regular exercise is something that every child can participate in, regardless of their age and the recommendations for physical activity as set by the Department for Health and Ageing begin in toddlerhood.
Children learn more from seeing what you do than what you tell them. One of the best ways to encourage children to exercise is to set a good example yourself. This can be a problem if you are inactive but making an effort and showing your children that exercise can be fun, is one of the best things you can do for your child. Going for a family walk after dinner, kicking a ball around the backyard, and dancing to the Wiggles, are all little things you can do to show how much fun exercise can be.
While some people may turn to organised sports or activities to keep their child active, this is not always an ideal option, especially if a child is overweight and concerned they are ‘too fat’ to join in or worried about being bullied. There are many options you can try at home to help your child become more active. In addition to the ideas above, other options you could try include yoga, exercise videos, and sports equipment for the back yard where your child can develop their sports skills in private. There are also plenty of activity bases games available for the Nintendo Wii and Xbox Kinect. Yet another option is the child sized treadmills and exercise bikes available at Big W.
Why you should Encourage your Child to Exercise
Everyone deserves to live a healthy life and children are no different. While the world changes and more children prefer to sit at a computer or stare at a TV then exercise, it is still important to encourage your child to be active. Search Google and you will find a multitude of articles and documents to link childhood obesity rates with increased obesity rates in adults. Not only that but young children are developing type two diabetes, a condition that previous occurred in adults over 40. Children are not meant to be burdened with the lifestyle diseases of older adults, nor were they created to sit at a computer or TV for long hours each day. Regular exercise helps children to develop and grow properly, and helps to create healthy patterns for the future.
Many children today have never experienced the joy of playing outside as much as we did and this is a sad reflection of our society. Despite the advances in technology, it is still necessary for us to exercise, regardless of our age. By encouraging your child to exercise from a young age, you are providing them with a skill that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. And who knows, maybe a family walk is just what you need to bring you and child closer together.