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The benefits of physical activities are aplenty. So, parents, let's try and make it a part of your child's daily routine. Find out what Dr Kannan Pugazhendhi, sports medicine specialist, has to say on the subject
We all know that to channelize our kid's energies in a positive manner, we need to guide them through sports and fitness. However, sometimes, many parents do not know at what stage we need to introduce a physical activity or how to go about it.
In a candid chat with ParentCircle, Dr Kannan Pugazhendhi, a specialist in sports medicine, stresses the importance of exercise in a child's formative years and how parents should encourage and initiate fitness activities in their child's daily routine. Excerpts:
Q. Why sports is important for today's kids?
A.Lifestyles diseases like diabetes and heart diseases are on the rise, especially in India. A sedentary lifestyle is one of the causes of it. So, early on, we need to help our children understand that sitting in front of the television or watching videos on the smartphone, and munching on chips and drinking soda is not the ideal way to spend leisure time.
Children who play sports are stronger and more independent. They find it easy to work in a team and they learn how to manage their time. Though not all kids want to play sports, parents should encourage them to participate in some kind of physical activity such as free-hand exercises, aerobics, dance or any fun fitness games.
Q. How do sports and exercises help the cause of education?
A. There is a link and it is a vital one. Only if the child is physically fit can he study well. Kids need physical activity to keep their bodies in shape.
For the overall development of a child, along with academics, parents should also introduce any physical activity. But many parents do not pay enough attention to the physical well-being of their child through exercise and sports.
Often, our kids are not allowed to play as it would affect their studies. They are not given any household chores because they have homework to complete. Parents are often reluctant to let the kids walk to school since it might tire them and make them lose their ability to concentrate in class. Fast foods and junk foods are often offered as bribes to children to entice them to study harder. This approach must change if we want our kids to grow into healthy individuals.
Q. Can you recommend age-wise fitness activities for children?
A. Here are a few age-appropriate fitness activities you can introduce to your kids.
Ages: 2-5 years
Start off when they are young. Flexibility and coordination are developed as soon as the child starts playing with a ball.
Rolling, throwing and catching a ball will improve your child's motor skills.
Children should not be introduced to any sport at this age as their sense of balance, strength and coordination are not yet to be fully developed.
Allow them to play and discover their physical abilities and capabilities. This will encourage them to take up a structured physical activity when they are older.
Ages: 6-9 years
Climbing ladders, hanging from monkey bars, moving back and forth in the swing, descending from the slide and going through the hurdles — all these help develop the child's motor senses.
The child's agility and endurance are tested during this phase. They get the 'hang' of the games and begin to formulate strategies that would be useful for them later.
A game of tag or playing frisbee with the family is also a good way to help develop strength in their muscles.
Walking and running can be introduced at this age but not of the competitive kind.
Ages: 10-13 years
Offer an array of choices. Children are exposed to various sporting activities and are eager to try out each one of them. Encourage your child to explore different sports; they offer a variety of health benefits.
Concentrating on one sport at this stage limits the development of the child's movement and creativity.
Try out different sports, as only then will children discover what suits them best.
Ages: 14-17 years
This is the stage when the child is ready to choose the one sport of his calling.
He should learn everything about the sport.
Just because the parents like a sport, they should not force their child to take it up.
At this stage, the child needs parental support the most.
These tips by Dr Pugazhendhi can help your child stay fit:
Be a role model: Practice what you preach; be interested in fitness yourself. Work out regularly or take up some sporting activity. Eat healthy foods and avoid processed ones.
Commit yourself: Once the child has chosen a sport, commit to taking the child to practice sessions and games on time. Take care of her sporting needs by providing her the proper uniform and equipment.
Provide proper nourishment: Ensure that your child is getting proper nutrition to meet the physical demands of the sport. Make sure he drinks enough fluids during practice sessions and matches. Further, he should get sufficient rest and sleep to take on the added physical stress. If you support your child's efforts he will be able to concentrate on his sport more and enjoy the experience.
Understand the game together: Attend some practice sessions. Get to know the coach if there is one. Ensure that the child understands the rules of the sport as well as specific team rules. This will make you aware of the strengths and weaknesses of your child and you will also be able to support him accordingly. Your child too will appreciate your support and feel more confident and inclined to do his best.
Encourage, do not push: When the child participates in competitive games, parents must encourage him and his teammates, and not pressurize him to become the best player of the game. Allow him to enjoy playing and set his own goals. Having fun while playing the game is as important as winning it. Allow your child to reach his maximum potential without the compulsion to be the best or achieve the first place.
So, remember that engaging in regular physical activity will only make your child healthier and enable him to do better in his studies. Exercise also helps your child fight off various diseases and reach his maximum potential.