How to make exercise for children fun
Exercise for kids made easy
Getting children to exercise outside of playschool, nursery or their weekly P.E lessons can be a challenge. However, exercise for kids can be fun and fuss-free. Being a certified physiotherapist for many years, having an exercise routine only comes naturally to me but having two young children, I know only too well the challenges that comes with this too. Inactive children are more likely to become inactive adults.
Children often mirror their parent’s so it’s imperative to set good foundations for exercise and healthy living. As a family unit it can be easier to carry out a healthy lifestyle.
Exercising for children is essential for a child’s growth and development and some studies show that children who exercise regularly perform better academically and find it easier to combat stress.
Some other benefits include:
- Stronger bones and muscles
- Improves energy
- Reduces risk of major illnesses such as heart disease
- Boosts self-esteem and mood
- Builds confidence
- Improves sleep quality
Finding time to exercise is hard but exercising doesn’t have to be about sweating or getting six-pack abs. It’s about gaining enough energy to carry your activities of daily life safely and effectively - which is great when exercising with children because it means you can inject some fun into the activities! If this is new territory for you, an easy way to get started is just 10 minutes of exercise before or after work/school. Remember your perspective is important here, if you see it as an opportunity as opposed to an obstacle, your children will too!
To get started here are some fun filled ideas that I do myself with my kids:
Both my children enjoy swimming, and so do I. Swimming is one of the greatest full-body cardiovascular exercises that you can do. Not only does it get every part of the body moving, the resistance of the water makes it good for joints. My daughter and I have raced in the pool while my 2-year-old floats in a floating suit in the pool.
Limit screen time
An easy way to get kids to be active is to cut down on screen time. Instead we play board games or dance together. I have a cross-trainer at home my daughter and I see how far we can do a certain distance and record our times.
Spend as much time outdoors as possible
On weekdays and weekends, we go for walks. Going to the park helps their sensory stimulation with all the park swings, slides and other fun equipment. Cycling is also a great activity – not only does it get the legs working but it’s great for awareness, alertness and balance. If you struggle to get the steps in, do the school-run by walking or try parking the car a little further away.
Use tech (if you have to!)
You can use technology as a means to be active, such as VR games for boxing, Wii Fit or AR games. Of course, this can still count as screen time so keep these to a minimum especially in the evenings as the blue light emitted from screens can disturb sleep.
Let the kids take control
Allow the kids to take the role of teacher and let them teach you a sport or activity that you may have not known otherwise – I learnt how to ice skate with the help from my daughter! Not only does this meant that the kids will be doing something they enjoy it also helps with their leadership skills.
I always praise My children's effort and not solely their results. Draw a vision in our children's mind that exercise fun, and as parents, we are their role models.
For more information on health and wellbeing for child, take a look at the following articles:
- Child weight management advice for parents – NHS
- Healthy eating habits for children – WebMD
- General health tips for children – Healthline
Written by: Fatimah Parkar, Physiotherapist at London Doctors Clinic