Does your child spend a lot of time in front of the TV, playing video games, or just sitting on the couch and reading?
Does he or she get enough activity throughout the day?
Or, would you say that your child has a sedentary lifestyle?
If your child sits around most of the day, even if it involves reading and studying, chances are that he or she does not get the required amount of physical activity each day.
While we all know that physical activity is important for adults, it is equally so for the health & development of children too. Physical activity is extremely important in children for mental and physical development and growth. Getting enough physical activity through childhood helps children to grow up to become healthy adults.
What Is Physical Activity?
WHO defines physical activity as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that require energy expenditure.
It could involve rigorous physical movements or less intense movements and could be various forms of activity like walking, running, swimming, cycling, and others.
Children can get their daily dose of physical activity from the activities mentioned above or even play games like hide and seek, catch, tag or even gardening. However, a combination of activities works better than simply participating in sports organized in schools.
Why Is Physical Activity Important?
Physical activity helps maintain good cardiovascular health and a healthy respiratory system, but the list of benefits goes beyond health. Here is why physical activity is important:
- Physical movement prevents joints and muscles from cramping and promotes flexibility.
- Staying active regularly keeps obesity away and helps in maintaining a healthy weight.
- Exercising regularly causes the happy hormones to be high and can help keep depression, anxiety and stress at bay in children.
- It fosters a feeling of sportsmanship.
- Children learn to fit into teams while playing games.
- Daily exercise has been proven to contribute to brain development.
- Help keep the immune system strong and prevents many diseases.
- Improves performance at school.
- Good physical activity during the day, helps to sleep fitfully at nigts.
Children are highly impressionable and learn what they see and observe around them. To ensure that your child develops an affinity towards physical activity, you must set a good example.
What Physical Activity Is Good for Children?
Your child should spend more timing moving than he or she does just sitting around. This movement could come from different structured and unstructured activities.
- Structured physical activities include sports organized at schools like running races, hockey, football, volleyball, basketball, gymnastics, yoga classes and the likes. While it does provide a good amount of physical activity, it also is important to complement it with unstructured physical activity.
- Unstructured physical activities involve random activities like running, playing games with friends, swimming and cycling with friends, dance, and more. These activities are sometimes called free-play or self-selected free play.
Now there are different types of activities that your child needs in combination. You can combine different activities mentioned below on several days of the week to ensure your child gets a wide range of exercises.
1) Movements for Flexibility
Your child must be able to carry out physical activities without resistance from their joints or muscles. Flexibility exercises help loosen the joints and muscles and involve a lot of stretching and bending.
You can enroll your child into online or physical yoga classes, gymnastics, aerobics and ensure that they continue practicing at home even on their off-days. To get them motivated, you could also do your yoga alongside or join them in their kid’s yoga sessions.
2) Endurance Activities
Endurance activities involve large muscle groups, increase the heart rate and breathing. These exercises get children huffing and puffing for breath, and prepares them for rigorous physical activities, and also improves their stamina. Endurance exercises help maintain good respiratory and cardiovascular health.
Initially, it may be difficult to do such vigorous activity, but over some time, doing endurance activities can significantly improve performance and strength, and children can then continue at a good pace.
Endurance activities include skipping, jogging, circuit training, swimming at a fast pace, running, and others.
3) Activities That Improve Muscle Strength
Children need to have strong skeletal muscles as it helps to maintain good posture, balance, systemic metabolism and also gives them the strength needed to perform daily activities as they grow. Any activity that involves the child working against resistance can help children grow.
While they cannot lift heavy weights at a young age, children can do push-ups, pull-ups, play tug-of-war, exercise with resistance bands, all with the help of adults.
Since kids like to be challenged parents can motivate their kids to complete certain rounds of push-ups or even do them alongside or have small fun-filled competitions with their kids.
4) Low-Intensity Activities
Now all physical activity does not have to be challenging and rigorous or done with specific intent. You can encourage your child to indulge in some low-intensity activities if they are not fond of activities that require excessive movement.
Take them on brisk walks, slow cycling, slow swimming, dance, play free play games, and many more.
How Can You Get Your Child to Be Physically Active?
Getting children excited for most things is very easy, but it is often not the case when it comes to physical activity.
- Set an example by being a healthy adult who exercises regularly.
- Accompany your child when they play or exercise.
- Encourage them to play in the playground with friends.
- Organize fun-filled family activities that involve all family members moving around and playing together.
- Enroll your kid into camps and classes where they can perform certain activities in groups and also get professional training.
- Restrict screen time.
Even though children must get sufficient physical activity, it is important to realize that every child’s fitness levels are different, and you as a parent must keep that in mind before they begin some rigorous physical activity. Start at something slow and small and then start building up.
Indulge in activities with your child and encourage them to move around more. Ensure they stay hydrated during and after physical activity and consume their daily dose of nutrients. Also, ensure that your kid is not dependent on carbohydrates and has a balanced meal consisting of a substantial amount of proteins.