Monday, March 15, 2010

Is your little pumpkin starting to look like one?

Helping Mario and Luigi tackle creatures from the sewers does not equate to physical exercise unless of course Yoshi is in on your couch, but try telling that to my eight year old son. You know I get his sense of urgency to get to the next level and liken it to my own deadlines, but when did it all just become about visual stimulation. Never before in history have humans, especially children been so inactive, never before has there been such an issue with obesity in children. Hence the decline in childhood fitness, that is not just for those who are obese.

With an explosion of childhood obesity and lack of physical fitness, it is becoming increasingly obvious that our kids need to do something-they need to move.

Kids have a natural inclination to move and play, and these activities form a vital role in their development. This penchant is inbuilt in them, and it is this tendency that teaches them about the world around them, builds strength, co-ordination, sense of accomplishment, flexibility, growth and development of their bones and socialising skills and apart from all this serious stuff it's fun. Physical fitness also plays an integral role in the overall health of the child by improving immune response; they sleep better and are better equipped to handle physical and emotional challenges. Studies have proven time and time again, like adult's children are happier, more confident in their own skin and their abilities when they are physically fit.

All these essential reasons aside, fitness for kids, can and should be fun. The thing with exercise is that it doesn't have to be structured to be beneficial. Physical exercise can disguise itself in many different muses, building sandcastles at the beach, having a race up the driveway, walking to school, dancing, kicking the soccer ball, playing chasey, whatever it is that makes the kids move.

Researchers agree that children need to engage in a minimum 60 minutes of physical exercise daily. There are 3 elements that constitute physical activity, they are

  1. Endurance- this is developed through aerobic exercise, during which the heart beats faster and the child breaths harder. This aerobic activity regularly performed strengths the heart and improves the body's ability to deliver oxygen to its cells more efficiently. Aerobic exercise is what burns fat.

  2. Strength- this is what is classified as anaerobic exercise. This is using the muscles in short bursts, followed by periods of rest. Anaerobic exercise builds stronger muscles, and in turn complements aerobic exercise.

  3. Flexibility- this is the ability to move the joints in a range of motions.

This does not necessarily need to be continuous,

So how do you get your kids more active?

First and foremost, whatever activity is undertaken, it needs to be fun. In order for children to partake in anything voluntarily they need to enjoy it. So activities for the kids need to be appropriate for their age, there is no sense in forcing a 3 year old to participate in a competitive team sport of soccer and expect them to have the same drive as what an older child would. So make sure that they are age appropriate activities for kids

Age 2-3: children within this age group are developing their motor skills such as throwing and running, so unstructured activities are best. Throwing a soft ball to each other, walking to the park, climbing on the equipment, chasey these are all great ways to encourage your child to be fit.

Age 4-5: At this age, the foundations of their motor skills have been developed, so it is about improving their skill set. Activities such as throwing and catching the ball, swimming, riding a bike. Competitive sports are not encouraged at this stage, but if they do the focus needs to remain on the basics of the game.

Age 6-12: Children can participate in organised sports teams, their motor skills are more refined and make it possible for them to participate in structured activities. Apart from the basics of soccer, football, netball, dancing, children can participate in yoga, rock-climbing, athletics, tennis, and many other specialised activities.

Age 13-18: it is imperative the children/adolescents continue physical activity. Their developed motor skills mean that they can apply themselves to any physical activity, this is the time that most children/adolescence shy away from physical activity, but it is essential that some form is maintained. In addition to weight management, physical activity serves to build a positive self image thus improving self confidence.

Try exercising together; Physical fitness doesn't need to be structured activities, it can be spontaneous and guided by the children and supported by the parent. It's important to get involved with your kids, encourage and applaud them, run with them, set the example through which healthy habits are instilled in your child.

One of the best things that you can do for your child's health is to reduce the amount of time they spend sedentary, that means limiting time in front of the television, limiting time playing electronic games such as the DS and playstation.

So as I hide the DS console under the bed, and guide the children into the backyard, I know that every step they run, every tree they climb, I am making a difference in their health.

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