For most grownups, the idea of keeping fit is sweating profusely on a large piece of gym equipment, staring at nothing interesting and in some cases, not enjoying the experience. It seems funny that we’ve forgotten the formula that as children, meant we stayed active, having fun.
Children have this amazing ability to get fit without even realising they’re doing it. Playing tag, throwing a ball around, dancing in the living room, it all adds up to fitter, healthier children. Some of this has been lost with the growth in computer games and a sedentary lifestyle, but healthy active children grow up to be healthy, active adults and this is something I want to see happen for years to come.
Ever since being a young child myself, I always knew I wanted to work in fitness. I studied fitness at University and have worked as a personal trainer for over five years now (something of which I am incredibly proud) and love every minute of it. Helping youngsters get fit, and have fun is a rewarding part of the job and something I would stress every adult does, even if they don’t work in fitness.
Many people don’t realise the benefit of a weekly activity to a child’s development. Most are aware of the physical benefits, but lesser known are the physiological, social and personal benefits.
Similarly, to adults, children participating in physical activity will benefit from several factors including:
- Stronger Muscles
- Stronger Bones
- Lower Chances of Obesity
- Smaller Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes
- Stronger Lungs
- Better Coordination
- Increased Flexibility
- Improved Balance
- Increased Cognitive Functions
Along with the physical benefits, there are huge number of mental health benefits of exercise for children. Being physically active can be a huge confidence builder. For shy children, getting your kids involved in activities can important in helping them develop team building skills and boosting their self-esteem. Any sport can help, giving your child the opportunity to perfect a skill gives them that confidence boost when they achieve it.
Physical fitness is a huge stress reliever for children. For many children, life can be hard at home or school. Pre-teens are full of hormones they don’t understand, some children are bullied at school daily and some others feel angry about their parents going through a divorce. Regardless of the issue, that hour or two of physical activity can be a time escape.
The social benefits of joining clubs is well documented in the elderly, but the same happens with children. Fitness activities can also be great for children to socialise and make new friends. Not only will something like a weekly club encourage them to develop teamwork skills, but any activity will encourage your kids to make new friends. Time and time again I have seen all kinds of kids, especially those who at school are thought of as being ‘difficult’ or ‘badly behaved’ completely change their behaviour and attitude simply because they are given an outlet to be active and creative and enjoy what they are doing.
Getting children to participate in fitness activities requires a little effort but is quite easy. Firstly, lead by example. If you sit all day long watching soaps or playing Xbox, more than likely your kids are going to do the same. The first steps to general fitness is doing it together. Go for a walk, go swimming, play in the back garden. Whatever it is do it together and have fun while knowing both you and your kids are improving your health in the process.
Find Something They Like and Encourage It. Many people automatically take their kids to a team sport like football, for example. But not all kids like team activities and that is okay! There are so many classes and activities available these days from horse riding to ice skating to martial arts, whatever you can try give it a go. They may not like every single one, but they have given it a go and had a good fitness session in the process.
Nevertheless, if they do find something they enjoy stick with it and encourage them. I am not saying you need to be a pushy stage parent, but if they love the ballet class you took them to and want to try two classes a week, if it’s possible let them. If they want to be involved in all the performances and competitions that go along with it, then support them!
You don’t need to bribe your kids to be involved in fitness, but a little incentive never hurts. For example, if they have been doing martial arts for a few weeks and the instructor pulls you aside to say how much they have progressed, or they get man of the match at football, really play up your pride and give them a little treat. Maybe just a little later bedtime or a trip to the cinema as a reward but this will send a positive message that their hard work is worth it and will be rewarded.
But if your child is participating in something positive and they love it, show an interest! Ask them when they get home to show you what they learned in the session. Even if they are falling over their own feet tell them they were great and to keep working just as hard next week. Having a parent’s support makes children get the best results.