Physical activity is important for everyone, regardless of age and gender. If kids do not get exercise, it will negatively affect their physical, mental, and emotional health.
If a kid does not get enough exercise or physical activity, they may face several issues such as:
- Increased risk of being overweight or obese
- Increased risk of diabetes
- Poor bone and muscle health
- Reduced creativity, memory, and concentration
- Low or irritable mood
- Increased risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues
- Low confidence
- Increased risk of high blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels
- Poor academic performance
- Disturbed sleep
- Increased stress
- Poor fine motor coordination and posture
Exercise is not only for the body but also for the mind.
Physically active kids tend to be more confident and build healthy social relationships. Lack of exercise is often associated with nervousness and poor self-esteem in kids.
The learnings that physical activity brings help kids to trust their abilities and grow as healthier and happier individuals.
How much exercise does a child need in a day?
According to the American Heart Association:
- Younger children (three to five years) should be encouraged to move throughout the day.
- Kids and teens (6 to 17 years) must do at least an hour of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity every day.
- Most of the activities should be aerobic (such as walking, cycling, and running).
- They must include vigorous-intensity (such as swimming laps, rope jumping, aerobic dancing, and hiking) activities on at least three days a week.
- Muscle- and bone-strengthening (weight-bearing) activities should be included at least three days a week.
If your child has been sedentary, you must start their activities gradually and build them with time.
Consult a health professional before including new activities if your child has any physical limitations or underlying health issues such as asthma or joint problems.
12 tips to encourage your kids to exercise
The following are 12 tips to encourage your kids to be physically active:
- Be a role model: Children learn more by observing than being instructed. Try to be active as a family rather than just asking your child to sweat it out. Be physically active and cherish that to inspire your child. If you stay on the couch all the time, your kids won't have the drive to be on their toes.
- Limit screen time: Although electronic screens have become an inevitable part of learning and entertainment, set limits for your child. Avoid screentime, except for supervised video calls for children younger than two years. Older children should not be having screentime more than one to two hours a day.
- Make exercise fun: Making exercise time fun makes your child look forward to it. Exercise doesn’t have to be boring or within the confines of a room. Add variety to your child’s exercise routine by adding fun activities such as nature walks, outdoor games, swimming, or group activities with friends and family.
- Avoid too much criticism: Do not be too harsh on your child. Criticizing them with phrases such as “You are too lazy!” or “You just can't be active enough!” can do more harm to your child.
- Keep a realistic schedule: Make a regular schedule for your child that includes appropriate time for exercise, hygiene, sleep, rest, studies, and leisure. This will help them stay on track and consider exercise as an essential part of their routine.
- Respect your child’s choices: Your child is not obliged to like the things you like. If you force them to pursue a certain sport or activity, there are high chances that they will quit it soon and for sure won't enjoy that. Ask your child what they like to do as physical activity and include it more often. Moreover, if it's been a tiresome day at school or with friends, let them have enough rest.
- Encourage more often: All children are different and so are their abilities. Encourage your child and praise them for all the efforts they make. They do not have to be as “perfect” as someone; they just have to be a healthier version of themselves. Encouragement boosts confidence and makes your child perform better in their own unique way.
- Be a participant rather than just an onlooker: Kids love to spend time and do activities with their parents. Participate in your kid's exercise routine as well. Play games with them or go for a jogging session.
- Don’t make exercise sound like a punishment: Your child should think of exercise as something rewarding and cool and not a punishment. Don’t make them do those “10-minute runs” or “50 jumping jacks” as a punishment for being “too lazy” or “overindulging in sweets.” Make physical activity sound like a reward for being good or as a rejuvenating time after a busy day.
- Arrange a session with a professional: Take a professional’s help to make things easy. If you find your child “too lazy,” lethargic, or easily fatigued, it is better to consult with their doctor. Certain nutritional deficiencies or health conditions may be the cause. Health professionals can guide you about age-appropriate physical activities for your child. Additionally, they may explain the importance of being active to your kid in a more convincing manner.
- Keep safety a priority: Although you want your child to achieve newer fitness milestones, avoiding injuries is important. Supervise your child when required, make them wear appropriate safety gear, and take other necessary precautions. These can help prevent any mishaps that may limit your kid’s fitness journey.
- Avoid overdoing it: Value the importance of enough sleep and rest. Even if your child is obese, they don’t have to shed all those extra pounds in a day. Consistency is the key. Do not make your child overexercise because it can harm them.
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