180 Nutrition: OK parents, hands up whose gym class, 45-minute run, or swim in the ocean is your time for peace and quiet and to get some you-time?
I know, I feel the same! Before the kids get up and the madness of the day starts, the first thing I do is head out to get an hour of quiet time for myself.
And while time for me (and you!) is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, it’s also just as important that we all regularly exercise with our kids, too.
All kids have limited exercise classes at school as part of the curriculum, and some are more active than others depending on their extra-curricular activities, but according to the ABS; in 2014 one in four children were overweight or obese.
So statistically, the school curriculum alone isn’t always enough to keep your kids healthy, and, taking that into account, there’s still lots of room for them to move much more.
Of course, their weight is important, but there are many other reasons that you should be exercising with your child at every opportunity.
Yes, this means taking them to the gym with you; yes, it means taking them for a run even if it slows you down, and yes, it means signing them up for school sports events even if they don’t take a natural interest.
Here are nine reasons it’s essential that your children exercise with you on a regular, if not daily, basis.
1) Exercise becomes normal to them
If, every time you put your runners on they grab theirs too, this will become their normal into adulthood. Children are incredibly impressionable, and the example you set them from a young age is unlikely to leave them. While they may go through periods of being inactive, a child that is consistently shown that exercise is part of a normal life, outside of the realms of having to (such as in school lessons), is likely to grow into an active, and therefore healthy, adult.
2) Encourages bonding
There’s no better chance to get close to your child than as you both grow stronger and fitter together. Having alone time will give you ample opportunity to talk about what’s going on in each other’s lives and will create a stronger bond between the two of you.
3) Improves their self-esteem
A child who is fit, active, and healthy is likely to have more self-confidence and a more positive view of themselves. Exercising together is an ideal way for you to give them encouragement and improve morale for their achievements and improvements which will help them create opportunities for their future. Having a strong mind because of this encouragement will also make them less likely to give into peer pressure as they navigate their way through their teenage years.
4) Controls weight
With 25% of children aged between five and seventeen-years-old overweight in 2014, the school exercise program doesn’t seem to be enough for everyone. As your child can see his or her body respond positively to regular exercise, they’re likely to make the connection at all stages of their life that being active will help them control their weight.
5) Builds strong muscles
According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases “up to 90 percent of peak bone mass is acquired by age 18 in girls and age 20 in boys, which makes youth the best time for your kids to “invest” in their bone health.”
A child needs to develop healthy bones to reduce their risk of breaks, fractures and bone disease such as osteoporosis later in life.
6) Improves sleep which helps them function better at school
An hour of exercise a day uses up excess energy which will make your child feel tired in the evening. Computer games and too much screen-time may stimulate the brain and have the opposite effect. If a child has a good night’s sleep, they’re much more able to cope with their day at school which will increase their learning ability and potential for their future.
7) You’ll spot their natural talents
If you’re exercising with your child regularly, you’ll have more opportunity to spot and develop any natural talents in sports such as swimming, running or football. These skills can often be overlooked in large group classes at school.
8) Teaches them an outlet for negative emotions
If your child is used to exercising regularly and has been exposed to a variety of exercise forms, they’ll see firsthand that this is an excellent way to release emotions such as anger, grief and stress rather than turning to negative outlets such as violence or stimulants later on in life.
9) Lead by example
The most effective way to teach a child anything is to lead by example. If you’re sneaking off to exercise on your own, or worse, not exercising at all and spending your evenings on the couch in front of the TV, your child is more than likely to follow your example. Once these habits creep into adulthood, they’re extremely hard to break. Long-term, a sedentary lifestyle can lead to obesity, chronic disease, and in some cases premature death.
If you’re not exercising with your child regularly, it’s not too late to start. You don’t need any special equipment and can begin today with a jog in the park or a swim at the local pool. Don’t be surprised if you’re met with resistance to start with, but persevere. Your normal will soon become their normal, and you’ll be contributing to a healthier child today and a healthier adult tomorrow.