As a species, it seems that the majority of us are simply getting lazy. All age groups are spending more time sitting down than moving their bodies, and this is not good for either our mental or physical health. For many adults, inactivity is a difficult habit to kick, even though we are aware of the harm that we are doing to our bodies. However, for children, it is not too late, and if you want your child to enjoy a happy and healthy adulthood, then you need to be encouraging your children to play sports now.
The benefits of sport
Just why should you encourage your child to put away their video games and get active? Just what are the benefits of sport and other physical activities? The benefits are numerous. The most obvious is that activity of any kind improves physical health. Being active means that the calories that your child is consuming are being burned off to provide energy rather than being stored in their body as fat as they sit idle on the sofa. Exercise is good for mental health as activity releases feel-good endorphins in the brain – quite simply, a person “feels” better after engaging in moderate to strenuous activity.
There are also social benefits. A child who plays sports usually has to engage with other people to win, so they will be developing their social skills if they engage in sports, including their communication abilities and their willingness to cooperate with others to achieve a desired objective, such as scoring a goal. Playing sports also widens their group of friends and helps them to build up their confidence and self-esteem so that they do not feel isolated or “different” from their peers.
How can you get your children away from the computer and active out of doors? The best way is to lead by example, so one way of getting your children active is to make time for family sport sessions. If your family enjoys tennis, why not book a tennis court for a Saturday or Sunday morning and have games of singles and doubles? Just remember to make the rules of the game, whatever you end up playing (as long as everyone enjoys it), at the very beginning and give them praise when it is due. If sport is a new activity for you as a family, try not to be too rigid about the rules, as you may risk boring your children.
Sports, like any new activity, can take time to learn and perform well, so if, for example, you have just started taking your child to swimming lessons and they are not progressing very fast, do not make your disappointment known at their lack of ability or progress. Instead, always encourage them to do better without making them feel pressured. You may also find that the sport that your child takes up loses its appeal after a while, so do not be annoyed if they suddenly want to switch to a new sport. Let them try a few different activities and experiment with what they like. They are more likely to stick at a sport that they enjoy than one that they do not. Be prepared for this to cost a little, though, as the more sports they take part in, the more equipment you may have to buy or hire.
As much as you want your child to be active, you also have to consider how hard they can push their body. Children are not professional athletes, after all, so they need to stay safe when they engage in sports. You will have trouble to curb their natural enthusiasm for getting stuck in, but you can prepare them beforehand by ensuring that they have the correct kids sportswear for their sport. For cycling, this would be a helmet and possibly kneepads in case they come off their bike. You can also mitigate the chances and the effects of an injury for the more athletic kids by including in their sport gear some compression wear, such as a knee sleeve or elbow sleeve.
Finally, you could also encourage an interest in sports in your children by watching, as a family, any sporting events on television. Make these events fun by bringing in (healthy) party food or even having a little family get-together beforehand or afterwards. Also, while watching, point out how successful the professional players have become because they have been interested in sport. There is nothing like an idol or role model for encouraging an interest.
Children should be encouraged to exercise for all the benefits that it will bring them. You can encourage your children in this respect by taking part in the games yourself and being supportive of their efforts, whether that means when they arrive home after playing a game or if you are there on the sidelines, cheering them on.