Physical activity is vital for a child’s growth and development. Allowing/encouraging your children to lead an active lifestyle while at a tender age increases the chances of them carrying it forward for the rest of their lives. This also means they get to enjoy the benefits of being physically fit for even longer. Physical activity not only helps kids cope with stress but also comes with various other benefits as well. It can be as simple as playing in the garden or as exciting as looking up bouldering near you, but either way, there will be benefits. These benefits include:
1. Improved self-esteem
2. Healthy growth and development
3. Stronger joints, muscles, and bones
4. Better balance and posture
5. A healthy weight range
6. A healthy/strong heart
7. Improved social interaction
8. Improved concentration and focus at school
9. Ability to learn new and fun things
Encourage your children to take part in team/individual activities, enrol in a recreational or skill-based class, or engage in various activities with a family member or friend. You too, need to guide and support your children in this as well. Most children will be more comfortable engaging in these activities when in the company of their parents, friends, and other family members. Letting them know it is OK to participate in these activities, even when you are not around, would be a good step too. Parents also ought to learn to praise and even reward their children for each accomplishment or step they make to keep them motivated.
The children should:
a. Include warm-up and cool-down exercises as part of each session
b. Drink plenty of water before and after the activities. They can also drink water during breaks
c. Wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat if working out outside in the sun
d. Have/use the right protective gear
e. Start at the lowest level (matching their fitness level)
According to Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living for Children, physical activity promotes healthy growth and development. Outlined below are the 3 different types of activities that promote growth and development.
Aerobic activities: These activities play a crucial role in the development of healthy lungs and heart. They involve the continuous movement of the larger muscle groups causing increased heart rate, sweating, and breathing.
Endurance activities don’t necessarily have to be competitive but fun. The children can choose from a wide range of endurance activities, including:
a. Skateboarding, in-line skating, scootering
b. Swimming, dancing, skating, martial arts, tennis
c. Jogging, hiking, playing tag, skipping, dodgeball, cycling
d. Football, hockey, basketball, soccer
e. Lacrosse, wall climbing, skiing
Flexibility activities encourage children to stretch and bend, thus improving their flexibility. Improved flexibility enables the children to take part in various day-to-day activities without suffering from muscle or joint restriction and pains. Flexibility also reduces muscle soreness and stiffness, good posture, minimised risk of injury, and increased relaxation.
Examples of flexibility activities include:
a. Raking leaves, digging at the beach or in the garden
b. Playing in the playground
c. Dancing, gymnastics, wall climbing
d. Rope skipping, yoga, and stretching routines.
Resistance training and workouts help children to build/develop stronger muscles. This is particularly important as it reduces the need to depend on others when taking on certain tasks. Strength activities also play a vital role in promoting strong muscles, bones, ability to move and lift heavy objects/obstacles, and good posture.
Some of the activities for stronger bones and muscles include:
a. Carrying things like garden waste, groceries, and garbage
b. Climbing stairs and raking leaves
c. Gymnastics, doing push-ups and sit-ups
d. Scaling poles, climbing ladders, monkey bars
e. Hand weights, bands, and tubing