Why it’s important to get kids off the couch

Posted in: Family Last updated: 04 Apr 2012

With TV, video games and the internet for entertainment, children don’t even need to step out of their bedrooms to have fun and as a result they are shunning outdoor activity and doing little exercise.

In July 2011, MEND published findings from a study of 40 primary school children aged nine and ten years which was carried out by The University of Worchester. It showed that children were only getting an average of just 33 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day – just over half of the recommended daily amount.

A survey was also conducted which revealed that kids reported spending the most amount of time participating in ‘sedentary activities’ such as watching TV (67 minutes per day) [1]. These alarming figures emphasise the need for parents to tackle the issue and take action. With the 2012 Olympics round the corner, sport is under the spotlight and it’s the perfect time to encourage our youngsters to become more active.

What are the benefits of exercise?

An article published by the NHS in July 2011 states that children and young people aged 5 to 18 should do at least 60 minutes of aerobic activity every day [2]. But what are the benefits of our children doing this much exercise?

Happy heart – Exercising regularly helps to strengthen the heart and body.

Reduces the risk of obesity – Unsurprisingly, exercise is one of the main ways to reduce body fat and maintain a healthy weight.

Healthy growth – Children are constantly growing so it’s essential that their bones are strong and healthy. An article published by Bupa’s Health Information Team in August 2010 states that physical activity can increase bone mineral density in children and help to maintain strong bones in adolescents.

Improved skills – Physical activity is a great way of boosting teamwork and leadership skills. It can also boost confidence, especially if youngsters perform well at a task – you may even find that your child has a hidden talent that you didn’t know about.

Improved sleep – It’s important that our children get a good nights rest and exercise can help with this, an article published by Bupa’s Health Information Team in August 2010 states that exercise should help you to sleep better.3

Improved social development and interaction – Exercise is a great opportunity for children to meet new friends and socialise with others.

How can we get our kids up and moving?

Build their confidence – Some children are not naturally athletic and lack confidence when it comes to sport and exercise because they don’t think that they are good enough. If you have youngsters that are lacking in confidence, devote some time to practice sport with them and offer your positive words of encouragement to boost their self esteem.

Set an example – Children love to imitate what they see, so practice what you preach by doing exercise yourself. It could be as simple as dancing in front of the TV to a work out routine – let them witness you moving and encourage them to get up on their feet to join you.

Do exercise as family – Kids are much more likely to participate in exercise if they have the support of people close to them, so why not get the whole family involved? Arrange regular family outings that are entertaining but incorporate exercise at the same time – bowling, bike riding or ice skating are all fun activities that require you to use your limbs.

Find an activity they love – Try and find an activity that your children love and encourage them to join a club; this will ensure regular exercise and can help them to get into a routine. Find out which sports/activities your youngsters might enjoy and book them in for taster sessions, this way they can try before they commit to anything.

Promote activity and not exercise – Disguise exercise by using fun methods such as bike riding and dog walking or even use exercise as a fun 15 minute break from homework.

Active video games – if you find it too hard to pull your children away from their games consoles, get them up and moving with active video games, exercising in front of the TV is better than no exercise at all!

For more information on exercise for children, visit www.nhs.uk.

1 Mend (July,2011), “Kids missing out on on physical activity” [online]. Available from www.mendcentral.org

2 NHS (July, 2011), “How much exercise should my child do?” [online]. Available from www.nhs.uk

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