As a society, our over-weight and obesity levels are on the rise, more alarmingly, the rates of over-weight and obese children are also on the rise. Data from 2015 in Australia, showed 1 in 4 children between the ages of 2-17 was considered over-weight. That’s a quarter of children who have increased health risks, due to being over-weight. As a mother, that statistic is alarming!
There are many contributing factors to this increase, but one big one is the lack of physical activity being undertaken by children. For whatever reason, children are spending more time indoors with technology, rather than getting some much needed exercise. We know how important exercise is for adults, but lets look at the benefits of exercise for children…
In the modern world, children face many obstacles from social media trolls, bullying, unbelievable air-brushing and other outside pressures. It is so important that they have a strong sense of self and an unwavering self belief. Physical activity teaches children not to give up and keep trying your hardest. You may loose, but that’s ok, you don’t give up, you just try again.
Creates stronger muscles, bones and bodies
Children’s bodies are continuously growing and developing, creating the building blocks for their future selves. What happens in those early, formative years, can make a huge difference to their development later in life. As such, developing strong muscles and bones from an early age will help their development in years to come. It also reduces their risk of injury and aids in growing stronger bones, which could lower the risk of developing osteoporosis.
Encourages motor skill development
Motor skills such as balance, coordination and agility are important development skills for all children, young and old. They are used to perform everyday tasks such a balancing, running, crawling, walking and using cutlery. The participation in physical activity can aid in the development of these skills, activities such as throwing/kicking a ball, catching, riding a bike or swimming.
This can be a tricky one, because traditionally people are not keen on children undertaking a resistance program. However, strength training is actually considered beneficial for children, assuming it is we’ll supervised with a specifically designed program. We are certainly not talking about heavy weight training, rather, high repetition, light weights with an aim to build strength, not hypertrophy. This doesn’t mean you should rush out and sign your children up for the gym. However, you can seek the advice of a professional trainer, who can develop a program specific for your child. It is not recommended that children start resistance training before the age of 6 and between 6-9 it should only be body weight exercises.
Develops social skills
Many of the sports aimed at children are teamed based sports, such as, soccer, football, netball or basketball. Through participation in these sports, children learn to develop skills such as sharing and team work. They also learn how to make friends, converse with others and have meaningful relationships with their peers. These skills are not only important for their development now, but will also set them up for later in life.
So what can you do to help increase your child’s physical activity? Lots!
My son Odin is 2 and something we do a lot of is an afternoon scooter ride. I get my cardio in by speedily following behind him, as he scoots around the neighbourhood. He can actually go about 3km on his scooter, which is pretty impressive for a 2 year old.
But there are so many options these days for all ages. Many sporting programs start from just 3 years old and prior to that, there are gymbaroo classes, dance groups, swimming and lots more for toddlers.
Its just about getting the kids off the couch or computer and getting them moving!