Exercise is vital to the health and well-being of children. Physical activity helps build healthy bones, muscles and joints, keeping a healthy body mass index and thereby reducing the risk of Diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease in later life. It helps children fall asleep quickly and sleep well. Apart from the benefits to the physical body, exercise also boosts the mental health of the children. It keeps the child enthusiastic, optimistic by boosting self-esteem and improves school performance, attention and behaviour. It also reduces anxiety, tension and depression. Physical activity has also shown to foster teamwork and friendship when it's a part of an organized sport.
It has been seen that the participation of children in all types of physical activity drops dramatically as they grow up and move to higher grades in school. Nowadays, children are spending too much time behind television, computer, phone and electronic screens. According to the World Health Organization, there are 41 million overweight and obese infants and young children. We are at a point where we have normalized a sedentary lifestyle that is not good for the human body over time. When it comes to children and exercise, the picture is not getting any brighter and if current trends continue, that number will increase to 70 million by 2025.
Be an active role model
Children constantly watch you and mimic your habits - both good and bad. If your child sees you being physically active and having fun, he or she is more likely to stay active throughout life. You can encourage your children to exercise every day, helping them maintain a healthy weight and develop a healthy lifestyle to lead in future.
Hence, physical activity must be a regular part of family life. Help your child find a sport that he or she enjoys playing. The more they enjoy the activity, the more likely they are to continue it. Try to get the entire family involved in the activity and make it a great way to spend some time together.
Plan your schedule in such a way as to make time for your children to engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. This can be divided into short time frames spread throughout the day. Always remember to praise, reward and encourage your child during physical activity Improvise screen time With schools and educational institutions shifting to online platforms to continue learning during the COVID 19 pandemic, the time spent in front of computer screens by children has increased significantly.
Gradually limit the screen time, including the time spent on TY, videos, computers and video games each day. You can also turn the screen time into activity time. When playing outside is not an option, your children can play interactive video games that require body movements such as tennis, bowling or baseball. You can also use dance videos for high-intensity physical activities such as aerobics and Zumba.
Plan fun chores and indoor games
Encourage your children to participate in simple gardening activities such as raking leaves, pulling weeds, watering plants and sweeping the walkway. Put on some music to add fun to the chores and get all family members todo it together. Here is a list of indoor games and activities that can help you keep your children (toddlers to teens) busy and moving while staying indoors:
• Hopscotch: Draw a hopscotch board with chalk on the floor and mark them with numbers from 1-9. You can number them and ask your child to get to the specific number by hopping. You can also use marked tiles instead of drawing lines with chalk and play this with your child.
• Jumping: Draw about 5-10 lines at equal distance (about 12 inches). Ask your child to jump at the farthest distance he or she can and see how many lines they can jump over. Similar jumps can be done with arms at the side or above head or sideway jumping. You can make more such variations with jumping activities.
• Suryanamaskar: Assign a specific time either in the morning or evening for about 15 minutes and practice swyanamaskar. This will not only strengthen the muscles but also improve the overall blood circulation, breathing and help keep the mind fit.
• Hula-hoop activity: This will help Competition as a motivator
Plan a contest between you and the children or your child and his or her friends to see who can run faster or do more push-ups or jumping jacks and give the winner a prize. Using technology such as a pedometer to track the results and progress can help promote physical activity and encourage the children to stay more active.
The only thing to be remembered here is that all children are not equal.Children with better motor skills tend to be more active and some kids are genetically inclined to be overweight. It is advised that parents should guide and encourage but not force their children to increase their activity.
Dr Nikita Morwal is a Physiotherapist and a certified Yoga trainer.