Take this quick quiz to evaluate your child’s fitness attitude. This evaluation then acts as a basic tool to fine-tune habits for optimal health and energy. Read the 5 statements, then answer with a clear “Yes” or “No”.

YES OR NO

My child is regular with exercise

My child enjoys “time out” spent in physical activity

Exercise improves my child’s mood

My child is willing to balance computer or television time with play time

My child is open to trying newer forms of physical activity

If you’ve answered “Yes” to at least 4 of them, your child has the right fitness attitude. If 2 or more questions have a “NO” answer, you have work to do. The goal is not always to produce a super athlete, but to raise a child who loves being active and is happy to run, exercise and play.

Did you know?

A child who has active parents is six times more likely to be physically active. And, it’s not just what you say and do about exercise, but it is how you deliver the message that is important.

Family fitness

Children learn by example. Set a good example by exercising regularly yourself.

On weekends you can go to the park or to the swimming pool together as a family. A little friendly competition can be fun, don’t be surprised if your 9-year old son beats you!

Q: Is PE (physical education) at school, adequate?

A: No. The PE lessons offered in schools are rarely adequate. At least one hour of exercise per day is recommended. At present, most schools do not offer one-hour of PE everyday. Also a lot of time in schools is spent changing clothes, getting instruction, lining up, all of which reduce the time to be active.

Breaking the barriers

Barrier 1: Not enough time to exercise

Setting aside time to exercise can be a challenge. Planning is the key. For example, Monday through Friday, your kids can play with friends after school. Weekends is a good time for you to get involved, by taking the kids to the pool, or for a bike ride.

Barrier 2: Exercise is boring

Choose activities your children enjoy. Remember, anything that gets them moving counts as exercise. Rotate different activities, such as playing football, swimming, cycling, and in the case of smaller children, taking them to the park to try out the swings, slides and jungle gym.

Barrier 3: My child is self-conscious because he is out of shape

Overweight children do tend to be more self-conscious. Talking to your child will instill a feeling of self-confidence. If a child is uncomfortable exercising in the presence of others, exercising solo is an option. Then, as fitness levels improve and the child becomes more comfortable with exercise, group fitness activities can be considered.

Barrier 4: My child is too tired to exercise

It’s a vicious cycle. If children do not exercise, energy levels will simply not pick up. It is therefore important to break the inertia. Only regular physical activity can give children the energy boost that helps them stay active.

Barrier 5: My child is not athletic

Natural athletic ability isn’t a prerequisite to physical activity. Get your child to try something simple, something he or she can sustain on a regular basis. An option could be playing cricket in the building compound, with neighbourhood friends. Team workouts or sports generate loads of positive, goal oriented-energy. The idea is to have fun while exercising, without worrying about becoming a sports superstar!

Benefits of exercise

Reduces chances of getting heart disease and other ailments.

Improves sleep patterns.

Keeps the body strong and in-shape.

Improves energy levels.

Improves posture

improves concentration

Improves self esteem

Importance of sleep and rest

Sleep requirement can vary between seven to ten hours depending on your child’s needs. It is not possible to function efficiently if the nights are spent tossing and turning without getting restful or enough sleep. Get your child into the habit of going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day so that the body gets into a correct sleep pattern.

Without sleep, the body and mind cannot function, optimally. Lack of sleep can lead to illness; also sleep and rest are necessary in order to recuperate during a bout of illness.

Suggested activities

Preschoolers (3-5 years old)

For development: playing outdoors, push or pull toys, walking, running, jumping, kicking, bouncing the ball

Suggested time: one-and-a-half to 2hrs

School-Age Children (6-12 years old)

For development: hand-eye coordination, building skills such as skipping rope, learning a sport, outdoor play

Suggested time: one-and-a-half to 2hrs

Adolescents (13+ years old)

For development: choose according to interest, play team or individual sports

Suggested time: 30 to 60 minutes

Encourage fitting in fitness

As a parent, you can encourage, inspire, guide, support and equip your child’s activity. Help them by providing equipment, transportation, and above all participate or even be a role model!

The writer is a certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist.

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