It is generally accepted that children are naturally physically active. If you watch children in a park or in a playground they typically enjoy running, climbing, swinging, jumping – being able to challenge their physical abilities whilst having fun. What you may not realise is that these natural physical abilities and what we class as ‘children just playing’ lay the foundations of good habits that will contribute to a happy, healthy, and active adult lifestyle. This means we need to encourage and ‘train’ our children from a young age that sport and being active is not only fun but is beneficial to their physical and mental health.
Being involved in sport and physical activity will help build their self-esteem and self-confidence. It helps to improve moods and can reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. Being part of a team will teach fair play, respect for themselves and others, how to adhere to rules, and how to be competitive – all of which are important attributes beneficial for adult life. Being active will help with brain function so they will be more enthusiastic and attentive at school and in the classroom. Moreover, educating our young minds that an active lifestyle will reduce their risk of having health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity later in life.
How do we train our young to be active so they become active adults?
Young children are keen to try most things. They love engaging in something new and exciting. They love to be outdoors and naturally have bounds of energy. The key to a physically active lifestyle is to start children when they are young. It needs to become part of their daily routine. Humans are creatures of habit, and like most things in life, the more it is practiced, the more it becomes second nature. Physical activity should be fun and not a chore, which means making it a part of our daily lives increases the chances that children and adolescents will carry this value of physical activity into adulthood.
It is suggested that children and adolescents take part in a minimum of 60 minutes of physical, ‘huff and puff’ activity each day. This 60 minutes needs to be fun and exciting, but also challenging so that it gets the heart pumping enough to get the endorphins flowing. Every child will have different physical abilities, so ensure that the sport or activity they’re doing is fun and suited to that individual. Some examples include independent or team competitive sport, dance class, swimming, bike riding, bush walking, surfing, skiing, yoga, and athletics.
Adults must take the lead with promoting physical activity, whether it be at home or in school. Here are some suggestions where adults can help train our young brains to be active:
- Be a good role model. Our children often mimic and copy our actions. It is important to promote a healthy lifestyle by participating in physical activity and sport ourselves (e.g., walk instead of drive, join a local sports team).
- Establish a regular schedule for physical activity and incorporate into your daily family life. Organise family activities that involve being active.
- Be positive and encourage the effort, remembering that not everyone has the same physical abilities. Praise for trying is an important factor for motivation.
- Put limits on screen and television time. It is suggested that children and adolescents spend no more than 2 hours a day playing computer games or watching television. Encourage them to be outdoors and active.
We believe in setting up good habits and the habit of being physically active is one that is worth investing time and energy for your child’s physical and mental health and happiness.
Emma Firth (Intern)
Get in contact with one of our team if you’d like to talk to us about the importance setting up good habits for mental health and happiness.