Thinking of encouraging your child to take up a sport? Go ahead! Taking up a sport is a wonderful way to stay fit.
By Namita Jain
Good habits are best started early. A child at age 4 is instinctively active – develop this instinct. Take your child to the park, playground, encourage learning of basic sporting skills such as throwing and kicking the ball, skipping, jumping, running and pedalling a tricycle or a bicycle.
By the age of 6 or 7, children are physically better equipped to participate in sports. They have longer attention spans and begin to grasp rules. While some children are motivated by competitive play, many are not ready for the increased pressure until 10 or 11 years of age.
This is a good age to develop hand-eye coordination and a basic understanding of rules for games and sports. Moderate-intensity activities can include swimming, bicycling, team sports and outdoor play. Many kids prefer to start with non-competitive sports and opt for competitive sports as they become older.
Research indicates that children above 10 years of age are more likely to participate in mentally and physically challenging activities. They might want to focus on an organised sport, develop specific skills and grasp complex strategies. Remember, too, that with competitive sport, your child’s attitude must remain positive, with losses and setbacks taken in a sportsmanlike spirit.
Fit, inside-out: Your child will develop stamina or endurance when she moves her body in a rhythmic and continuous manner, using the large muscle groups in the body. She will get this kind of exercise when she jogs, runs, skips, jumps or plays sports such as swimming, cricket, tennis or squash. These exercises are essential for improving heart health. The aerobic activity gets the heart to deliver more oxygen to cells within the body.
Sports of all types require a sense balance, whether it is clearing a hurdle or reaching to catch a ball.
Fit heart: Exercise makes the heart stronger and helps it to pump more blood with each heartbeat. A well-conditioned heart pumps more blood with fewer heartbeats, while a heart with less aerobic conditioning is not as efficient. During vigorous exercise, blood is pumped at a much quicker rate – blood can circulate up to 20 times faster than normal.
Fit body: Although you cannot see the body becoming stronger, you will certainly see your child demonstrate superior performance in the level of exercise, or show increased stamina in a game. For example, when he plays a tennis shot, the quality of the shots will visibly improve. and regular exercise actually results in increased bone strength.
When your child gains strength, all her muscles become stronger and more toned. You will find her accomplishing demanding activities, such as lifting, climbing, bending, or running with ease.
Stronger bones: The framework of human skeleton comprises 206 bones. Bones need calcium to grow and stay strong. Sports involves strength training which will improve calcium absorption in your child’s bones.
Better sleep: Exercise improves sleep patterns. Your child will sleep soundly and restfully after her game.
Mental health: As she becomes physically fit, she will have more energy. Her levels of fatigue and stress will reduce. Sports increases concentration and focus, improves study performance and boosts self-esteem.
An enduring passion for a sport or exercise at a young age is a sure way of ensuring continued interest into adulthood. As a parent, you can encourage, inspire and equip your child to pursue her passion. Help her by providing the right sports gear, taking care of transportation, and above all, participating as a role model! Watch as many professional matches as possible with your child. Help her remain focused and motivated.
A child who has active parents is more likely to be physically active. Children learn by example. Set a good example by taking up a sport yourself. On weekends, you can play a sport together or go to the swimming pool, as a family. A little friendly competition can be fun - don’t be surprised if your 12-year-old son beats you!
Motivation is a crucial factor in any exercise regimen. Without motivation, it is all too easy to make excuses to be lax. Slacking off for a day can turn into slacking off for a week, a month and eventually result in quitting the programme altogether.
Namita Jain is a wellness expert. She also writes for leading newspapers and magazines and has authored over 10 best-selling books on health and fitness.
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