If you’re reading this I can assume that you already make fitness a priority in YOUR life but have you thought about how to make fitness a priority in your child’s life as well? It’s easy to assume that children are getting enough activity naturally and don’t have to worry about their fitness until later on in life but it’s the habits that are set in motion in childhood that will make the difference in their health and fitness for years to come. Most parents (myself included) think of organised sports like football, tennis, or dance class when they think of fitness, while there are many advantages to signing your child up to a sports club or team, practicing and playing once or twice a week will not be enough to reach your child’s activity goals.
What children need?
Guidelines recommend at least 1 hour a day of moderate to strong physical activity per day. This needs to include forms of Endurance, Flexibility & Strength activities.
Why children need it?
Physical activity promotes:
- Healthy growth and development
- Self-esteem and body awareness
- Stronger bones and muscles
- Better posture and balance
- A stronger heart
- Social interactions & skills
- Ability to learn new skills while having fun
- Better focus and concentration in school
So, how to do it?
- Education: Parents play the most important role in teaching their children how to take good care of their bodies. Focus on the body functionality over aesthetics, how your body feels & works rather than how it looks.
- Lead by example: Kids do as you do, not as you say!
- Get active together: Make physical activity part of your daily routine. From household chores to playtime outside or even after dinner walks. Keep your family active every day. Bonus: Children love to play with their parents.
- Free Play: Children can burn a lot of energy and have more fun when left to play themselves, playing tag/riding bikes. Let them take the lead in deciding what they want to do, this will build great leadership skills and confidence.
- Make fitness fun: Keep a variety of games or sport equipment on hand. Does not have to be expensive – an assortment of balls, hula hoops, skipping ropes.
- Limit time spent on screens: if they need to be on the phone/iPad remind them to get up and walk around every 30-60minutes.
- Encourage instead of demand: Remember that every child is different, while one might enjoy competitive sports, another may just like to spend running around in the garden or at the park. Both are equally important in building a health relationship with fitness.
Personally, I make family fitness outings part of our routine. Other times I let my children choose an activity they want to do, anything goes as long as everyone can participate. If that means a 30 minute dance to songs they choose on their iPad or an outing to the local pool for a splash, or rock climbing. Exposure to a variety and allowing them to experiment with different activities allows your child to find what they enjoy and will set a great foundation for an active lifestyle.
As a parent, this is one of the most important things you can do to set your kids up for success.
It’s never too late to start.
By; Minhal Bhojani, Performance Coach