Someone once said ‘I believe the children are our future’. That is why ensuring the next generation is a fit and healthy one is imperative. Getting kids involved in fitness is something I have always been passionate about and that’s why in this article I want to discuss how important fitness is for our little ones as well as ways you can keep them active.
For most grown ups, their idea of keeping fit is sweating profusely on a large piece of gym equipment. However, even though we were all children once, many of us forget that for kids a lot of fitness is simply having fun.
Every time your youngster throws around a ball or chases a friend or even dances to their favourite song in your living room their fitness is improving. Being physically active is incredibly important for us all, children and adults alike. That is why finding fun things to keep your kids moving is a great way to ensure they are getting all the health benefits every growing child needs.
Why I Believe Fitness is so Important for Kids
Ever since being a young child myself I always knew I wanted to be a dance teacher. To work with children, giving them a fun and safe environment to be active and creative and make friends in the same way I did for most of my childhood.
As an adult, I turned that dream into reality and not only ran my own successful school of performing arts but also worked with schools and community groups on programs specifically designed for underprivileged kids in the local area.
For a number of years I offered kids throughout the community the chance to train in dance for free. Boys and girls of all ages would come through the door week after week and nothing gave me more pride than seeing the physical, mental and social benefits that those children gained from my sessions.
Physical, Mental and Social Benefits of Fitness for Children
Many people don’t realise how beneficial a simple weekly activity to a child’s development. Yes, ok most people are aware of the physical benefits. Similarly to adults, children participating in physical activity will benefit from a number of factors including:
- Stronger Muscles
- Stronger Bones
- Lower Chances of Obesity
- Smaller Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes
- Stronger Lungs
- Better Coordination
- Increased Flexibility
- Improved Balance
- Increased Cognitive Functions
There are many physical health benefits from participating in fitness but also huge mental health benefits. First of all, being physically active can be a huge confidence builder. For shy children, getting your kids involved in activities can be so important. Any sport can help, giving your child the opportunity to perfect a skill gives them that confidence boost when they achieve it. Plus being able to do something that not everyone else can again builds confidence.
Also performance activities are really great for shy kids. Dance, gymnastics and so on can really help a child come out of their shell by encouraging them to push themselves past their comfort zone and perform in front of an audience.
Also, physical fitness is a huge stress reliever and yes, children do sometimes get stressed. For many kids life can be hard be it at home or at school. Pre teens are full of hormones they don’t understand, some children a bullied daily at school while others feel angry about their parents going through a divorce.
Regardless of the issue, that hour or two of physical activity can be an escape. A time to focus all of their energy on something other than the worries they are experiencing and feel good about the achievements they are making.
Fitness activities can also be great for kids socially. Not only will something like a weekly football club encourage them to develop teamwork skills, but any activity will encourage your kids to make new friends.
One of the biggest benefits I saw in kids over the years as a dance teacher was giving kids an opportunity to make friends outside of school. Not only a different group of kids who have no connection to their school life, but kids of a similar age who all have the same interests.
This way that boy who gets bullied at school because he likes to dance gets to go to his dance class at night and be happy in an environment where everyone likes him and even admires him because of how talented he is.
Time and time again I have seen all kinds of kids, especially those who at school are thought of as being ‘difficult’ or ‘badly behaved’ completely change their behaviour and attitude simply because they are given an outlet to be active and creative and enjoy what they are doing.
Ways to Get Kids Involved in Fitness
Lead by Example
First of all, lead by example. If you sit all day long watching soaps or playing Xbox, more than likely your kids are going to do the same. The first steps to general fitness is doing it together. Go for a walk, go swimming, play in the back garden. Whatever it is do it together and have fun while knowing both you and your kids are improving your health in the process.
Find Something They Like and Encourage It.
Many people automatically take their kids to a team sport like football for example. But not all kids like team activities and that is okay! There are so many classes and activities available these days from horse riding to ice skating to martial arts, whatever you can try give it a go. They may not like every single one but they have given it a go and had a good fitness session in the process.
Nevertheless, if they do find something they enjoy stick with it and encourage them. I am not saying you need to be a pushy stage parent, but if they love the ballet class you took them to and want to try two classes a week, if it’s possible let them. If they want to be involved in all the performances and competitions that go along with it, then support them!
You don’t need to bribe your kids to be involved in fitness, but a little incentive never hurts. For example if they have been doing martial arts for a few weeks and the instructor pulls you aside to say how much they have progressed, or they get man of the match at football, really play up your pride and give them a little treat. Maybe just a little later bedtime or a trip to the cinema as a reward but this will send a positive message that their hard work is worth it and will be rewarded.
If They Love it, Love it too!
So many times as a dance teacher I have seen parents who bring their kids to classes but show no enthusiasm or interest in what their child is doing. They aren’t really interested in the grade they got in their examination or that they have been asked to perform at a special event.
But if your child is participating in something positive and they love it, show an interest! Ask them when they get home to show you what they learned in the session. Even if they are falling over their own feet tell them they were great and to keep working just as hard next week. Having a parents support makes children get the best results.
So why not check out what activities in your local area from community centres, after school clubs or private centres and let your kids try something new this week.
Jenny Abouobaia is a professional health and fitness writer who to date has written over 500 articles for numerous publications