Are your children getting enough exercise? It’s a thought that worries many parents in today’s day and age of technology and constant media consumption. And perhaps with good reason: in 2016, an international study presented to the International Congress on Physical Activity and Public Health ranked England, Scotland and Wales among the worst countries in the world for physical activity.
The benefits of exercise for children
It’s hard to deny that exercise is good for our children. Children are encouraged to get at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, and the benefits of achieving those numbers are enormous.
Of course, there are the health benefits. As explained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exercise can help children fight obesity, improve their cardiorespiratory fitness, build stronger bones and muscles, and even avoid mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Long-term, establishing these habits can help children avoid heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic illnesses.
According to a study done by Public Health England, parents report that children between the ages of 5 and 11 who are more active are also happier, more confident and more sociable. The same study found that 93% of children enjoy being active.
The importance of family exercise
Children tend to be more motivated to engage in exercise when it’s a social activity, either with friends or with family. Parents play an important role in encouraging exercise among children. According to Dr Ron Eaker, author of the book Fat-Proof Your Family, parents who exercise with their children ingrain in them a sense that physical activity in a normal part of everyday life. He emphasises that parents have a responsibility to be role models for their children, showing them the best ways to take care of their health through both food and exercise.
Similarly, a report done by Women In Sport and the Institute of Youth Sport Families found that a child’s own family is the single biggest influence on his or her activity levels. So, what can parents do to make sure their family gets more exercise?
Social sports are the way forward
There are many social, team-based sports available for entire families to get involved in, no matter the ages of your children. More and more clubs and leagues are accepting families. Check community flyers for opportunities, or do an online search – one great example is football, netball and more from Powerplay.
These team sports not only encourage your children (and you) to become more active, they can serve as a bonding opportunity for your family, helping you strengthen your relationships and establish some long last memories. Such exercise can also strengthen communication within your family and is a fun way to teach lifelong habits. Family exercise is also cost effective and can easily be done on a budget.
You can’t deny the benefits of exercising as a family and, with so many resources making it cheaper and more accessible than ever, there is almost zero excuse for avoiding it! Whether you choose to go for a nightly walk through the neighbourhood or sign up for a team sport, you can rest assured that you’re setting your children up for long-term health and success.