Enthusiastic parents want their children to do well. Although academic performance is important, remember physical exercise, too. It all helps! A healthy body means a healthy mind, and exercise is vital for good physical, mental and emotional health. All of these contribute to your child’s success in learning and in life.
Blood pumping around the body carries oxygen to essential organs like the heart and brain. So, in addition to studying and doing homework, make sure that your child is getting plenty of exercise. It will all help them to learn!
Statistics show that only 1 in 20 people complete the recommended guidelines for weekly exercise. The younger the better, for starting healthy lifestyles and exercise. If parents can incorporate physical movement into the daily lives of their children from a young age, it will help improve their health and wellbeing for life.
This guide outlines why exercise is important, has tips for getting and keeping children active, and tells you how to make it a fun activity for the entire family.
The ‘National Child Measurement Programme’ research concluded in 2014/15 that almost 20% of 10-11 year olds are classed as obese (Public Health England).
The increasing popularity of smartphones, internet, Skype, TV and video games has resulted in children spending more time sitting in front of a screen, instead of spending time being physically active. But parents can change this.
In addition to addressing obesity, growing children need exercise to help develop their bones, joints and muscles – and it makes them feel happier.
Exercise provides a ‘feel good factor’ and alleviates anxiety, while also building confidence. Your child might be reluctant at first, but once they get outside in the fresh air, or get the rush of feel-good hormones like serotonin and endorphins, they will soon start to have fun!
Regular exercise also helps to prevent serious health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, strokes and hypertension. The British Heart Foundation website provides useful information.
Young children especially are full of energy, so an hour of playing in the park will help to tire them out, meaning a good night’s sleep, which is also vital for their development.
Physical activity with other children enables them to work on their social interaction and teamwork skills.
The government suggests that children under the age of 5 should be physically active for around 3 hours a day. Children between the ages of 5-16 should be doing at least 1 hour of exercise each day (Change4Life).
Exercise does not have to be completed all at once: sessions can be split throughout the day.
Sports are a fun and competitive way of getting children active, so encourage them to join local classes, clubs or teams.
Give them the opportunity from a young age to try a variety of sports and activities such as:
The whole family can get involved in activities such as ice skating, roller blading, bowling or swimming at the local leisure centre. Exercise doesn’t even need to cost you a penny – get everyone together and go for a relaxing stroll in the countryside or a run. Or get the bikes out and go on a family bike ride.
Ensure that physical activity is fun. Children don’t need to participate in strenuous exercise – walking works. As long as they are not sitting in front of a screen and are moving, it counts!
Perhaps create a ‘Getting Active’ timetable and plan different things to do every day.
More advice can be found on the NHS website.
In one survey of 260,000 children, almost 3⁄4 never complete the 1 hour of recommended exercise per day.
Whatever you do with your children, make sure that you are giving them opportunities to complete their daily physical activity.
You’re helping them to be healthier and happier in the long run (literally – on a long run!).
Let them see you being active, too. Lead by example.