Exercise for kids is so important, especially from a young age. However, research shows that children don’t get as much exercise as they should. Here’s why you should start teaching your kids healthy habits from young.
About 61% of adults and more than 17% of children between the ages of one and nine are obese or overweight in South Africa. Don’t let your family become a statistic. According to a study by the World Health Organisation, a lack of physical activity is one of the main risk factors of chronic lifestyle diseases like diabetes, obesity, colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, depression, anxiety and cardiovascular disease. Making healthy choices for your family will only benefit them later in life and the best place to start is with a well-balanced diet and at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day.
Here are four reasons why exercise is essential for your kids:
Develops muscle strength
The stronger their muscles, the lower the risk of injury. Using their bodyweight and kid-friendly weights keeps their bodies limber and functioning optimally. One of the best ways to strengthen your kids’ muscles is to encourage them to play on monkey bars – challenge them to make it to the end without stopping – the movement of swinging from one bar to the other strengthens the upper body, boosts muscular endurance and improves coordination. The “wheelbarrow” is also a beneficial activity that you can play with your child, or siblings and friends can play together – it’s beneficial for both the person doing the arm walking and the one holding the legs by strengthening their back and upper body muscles.
Regulates mood swings
Research into the link between exercise and psychological wellbeing is mounting and for good reason. If you’ve ever gone for a long run after a stressful day at work, chances are you’ve felt better. The same concept applies to kids – even though they don’t have the same stresses and worries as adults, they do have their fair share of anxiety and pressure relative to their life stage. Exercise helps control and stabilise mood swings by releasing endorphins. In the long term, it assists kids with having a better, more positive outlook on life by building confidence, increasing self-esteem and helping to improve cognitive skills.
Boosts bone strength
Calcium and vitamin D are essential nutrients in building strong bones, but exercise is an essential component of bone strength, too. The most important time for bone strength is before your child enters her teen years, so encourage your kids to do weight-bearing activities that will increase their bone density. High impact exercises that involve a high degree of jumping and running, like basketball, soccer and gymnastics will help increase bone mass.
Maintains a healthy bodyweight
It’s easy to shrug off your child’s weight gain as just “baby fat” that she’ll lose when she’s older, but with childhood obesity increasing annually worldwide, teaching your children healthy habits early on is essential. It is the combination of diet and exercise that helps kids maintain a healthy weight.
Stand the chance to win a trip to Disneyland, Paris!
In celebration of healthy and happy families, Discovery Vitality and Disney are giving you the chance to win a trip to Disneyland Paris to experience a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Each quarter (from April to December), families need to complete certain goals to stand a chance to win.
For the months of April to June, follow these steps and you and your family could be on your way to Disneyland Paris:
1. For kids aged two to five, parents must complete three park runs each, or the entire family must walk 10 000 steps three times.
2. For kids aged six to 18, you must earn 1 000 Vitality fitness points as a family.
3. Activate the HealthyGear benefit at www.discovery.co.za.
Keep checking the Discovery website for the next set of goals.
Tammy is a wife, mom and freelance writer with 15 years’ experience in the media industry. She specialises in general lifestyle topics related to health, wellness and parenting. Tammy has a passion for fitness and the great outdoors. If she’s not running around after her daughter, you’ll find her off the beaten track, running, hiking or riding her bike.