As a parent, you want to nurture your kids from day one, and inspire them to explore their interests. But you also want to ensure that they understand the importance of taking care of themselves, which is why you need to get them involved with exercise and fitness early on.
So many children lead relatively sedentary lives, with computers, TVs and smartphone screens to contend with. Starting them early with a love of sport and physical activity will help set a strong foundation for a healthy life as they get older. Here are some of the benefits of inspiring your kids to love exercise and ways to do so.
The advantages of a love of exercise in kids
Refined motor skills and cognitive development
Exercise isn’t just beneficial for your child’s physical health. It also aids brain development, because nerve cells in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus in the brain will be forced to make new connections, which improves concentration and their memory. For young children, exercise as part of their play is a great way to develop stronger, more refined motor skills which is vital to how they move and carry out tasks in everyday life. Motor skills are essential to everything from tying shoelaces and buttoning up a shirt to feeding themselves and writing. Exercise can help them to develop these skills.
Healthier physical development
Just like diet, exercise is fundamental to your child’s physical development. It encourages stronger muscles and bones, reducing the risk of your child developing bone or muscle-related diseases in the future by improving bone mass and density.
One benefit to instilling a love of exercise in kids is that it teaches them the importance of rules and discipline. Exercise, especially team sports, teaches kids to accept rules with grace and to respect others which is a valuable lesson to learn early on. Sports and exercise also helps them to develop healthy habits and stick to a routine. This will encourage them to keep going on those days when maybe they’re tempted to stay home. It nurtures discipline and the importance of keeping to habits to see positive results, which will see them through challenges later in life.
Exercise is the most effective way to burn calories, and when it comes to keeping kids a healthy weight, finding ways to incorporate more physical activity is the key. You naturally want to give your kids everything and treat them as much as possible, but this can have a knock-on effect in increasing their weight and putting them at increased health risks such as diabetes, heart problems or obesity in adulthood. Getting them moving regularly each week will keep these risks at bay.
How to encourage a love of exercise in little ones
Lead by example
Setting a good foundation for children in large part starts with the example you set them. Kids look to their parents for how to behave and to understand what’s important, so the more you can do as a family will really go a long way to inspire them to value it too. A child that sees their role model engage in healthy physical activity will be more likely to adopt those habits themselves, so find ways you can exercise as a family.
Maybe you set Saturday mornings aside for swimming at your local pool or maybe you set up a golf simulator in your garage for after school practice together. From a kickabout in the park at the weekends to running on a treadmill at home, there are various ways you can make time in your week for exercise together.
No-one is saying you need to sell your TV entirely, but limiting how much access your kids have to screens can help them find other ways to entertain themselves. Screens aren’t all bad, and there are certainly some educational benefits that can come out of TV shows and computers, but the free time that comes from limiting screen time to just a couple of hours can be spent playing in the garden, joining a sports club with their school or playing with active toys.
Give them active toys to play with
On the subject of toys, a great way to get your kids moving and passionate about exercise is to give them toys that encourage movement. From hoppers and balance toys to sensory toys and even just a ball, there are so many toys on the market that encourage physical activity. They’ll enable little ones to have fun, socialise and get moving, but also develop motor skills, coordination and problem solving.
Let them try different sports
Kids love having autonomy over what they do. It encourages independence and decision making, and you’re far more likely to get your kids interested in exercise if they have a say in which activities they take part in. So, let them try things on for size to see what they like by signing them up for different clubs and programmes that are suitable for their age.
From tennis clubs and swimming to dance classes and local football groups, it’s the perfect way for them to make friends, give different activities a go and see what they enjoy. If your kids express an interest in trying something, pay attention and sign them up where possible.
Whether your kids are naturally active or not, there are exercises out there to suit them and their personality type. But the earlier you can encourage kids to enjoy physical activity and take care of their health, the more inclined they will be to pursue these hobbies and stick to them as they grow up. We all know that we should be exercising more to stay healthy, maintain a balanced weight and stave off health problems in adulthood, so getting kids involved early on in life will ensure they grow up as healthy as possible, physically and mentally.