Every parent wants the best for their child, especially when it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle. Teaching children to be active from an early age is something which many parents strive to do but can also find challenging. This might be due to lack of time to dedicate to exercise, costs involved or simply finding it difficult to tear your children away from their gadgets. It’s a well-known fact that exercise is not only good for children’s physical development, but also aids their social development and improves their mental wellbeing and in a society where child obesity is at an all-time high, now is the time to get our children as active as possible.
Alarmingly, statistics show the UK has the highest childhood obesity rate within Europe. The National Health Service collected data between 2016-2017 which showed statistics of 1 in 5 children being obese by the time they leave primary school. To combat these worrying figures, health professionals prioritise two major changes in lifestyle. These are diet and exercise. A healthy, balanced diet along with regular exercise are the keys to reducing weight in obese children. Not only is exercise thought of as a ‘magic pill’ to be a healthy weight, it can also help to improve children’s productivity, concentration and help them sleep better. Exercising with others is also a great way for children to socialise and make new friends, thus boosting confidence levels.
Major benefits of childhood exercise include children developing stronger bones and muscles, lower risk of becoming overweight in the future, decreases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and massively improves mental wellbeing.
Getting children to exercise doesn’t have to cost the earth. By no means should parents have to spend a fortune on expensive sports equipment or the latest football boots. Simple everyday activities such as going to the park, taking part in family fun runs or walking to the shops instead of hopping in the car for a 5-minute journey can make all the difference. Websites such as www.ukfitnessevents.co.uk offers a range of events your family can get involved in locally. Getting family and friends involved in exercise is a great way to help children socialise, get fit and improve their communication skills. This could involve a trip to the swimming pool, playing rounders in the park or getting the gang together to play active games on a game console.
There are many organisations and campaigns which promote child fitness including school holiday sports clubs such as Kings Camps. Kings Camps’ goal is to get children active whilst having fun and learning together. They take the focus off competitive sports and replace this with encouraging children to try new sports, rewarding them for their efforts. Kings Camps coaches (aka Red Tops) provide a safe and inspirational environment where children feel at ease to give new sports a go. The camps offer children the opportunity to be active for whole weeks over the school holidays, times which many children find themselves spending hours in front of screens. Another organisation called Kids Run Free, was set up by two female competitive athletes. Their aim was to encourage children throughout the UK to get involved in running and gain a sense of achievement through this. Similarly, Youth Sport Trust who coupled with Virgin Sport Hackney aimed to get more kids playing sports in inner city environments. Regardless of where in the country we are, parents should easily find something nearby which is accessible to them and their children, with the likes of Kings Camps delivering active games and sports in around 50 different locations nationwide.
According to the NHS, exercise through play for young children is a great way to get them moving and should be actively encouraged by parents, carers and teachers. The NHS recommends 4 and 5 year olds should be aiming for a minimum of 180 minutes exercise per day whilst those aged 5 -18 should aim for a minimum of 60 minutes a day. These guidelines should be achievable for most and are something to aim for. It’s vital that children learn the importance of leading an active lifestyle from an early age, for this to continue into adulthood. Psychology Today features a study whereby those who took part in sports as a child were more likely to continue psychical activity as an adult. These people had a higher sense of wellbeing and fitness scores and were at a reduced risk of health problems.
Exercise and maintaining a high level of physical activity is vital for children to develop both physically and mentally. For children to gain the recommended amount of exercise required, parents and careers are ultimately responsible for this to happen. For those who need help on finding activities for their children or are worried that their child is not getting enough exercise, can always speak to their GP for advice. GP’s will have the resources to signpost parents and carers to organisations and clubs which their children can get involved in. Clubs such as Kings Camps may be one of these, with many venues offering 4+ weeks of sports in the summer, there’s plenty of opportunity for children to spend at least a week being active in the holidays. The organisation has also supported children referred by their GP and given them the chance to reap the benefits of being fully active in the holidays.