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Fitter, Healthier, Happier

by Eddie Rayner
Fitter, Happier, Healthier

We may all be stuck inside more than usual, but that’s no reason to let our children’s fitness fall by the wayside, with burning off energy and staying active crucial for their wellbeing. Prioritising fitness will keep them bouncing off the walls and prevent cabin fever while keeping parents sane.

Covid-19 has introduced a new concept into our vocabulary, ‘socially isolating’, which can be especially difficult for children, who are used to after-school activities and playing with their friends. With this in mind, it’s essential to redirect a child’s energy to activities they can enjoy within the confines of the home.

As we continue to combat the Covid-19 threat, it’s understandable that exercise may not be top of the family to-do list; in fact, for many, it might not even be on it. Yet keeping fit is not only good for kids’ physical health but their mental health too.

Move Around and Have Fun

The World Health Organisation suggests that children should be physically active for a minimum of 60 minutes a day. Research shows that in addition to increasing fitness levels, staying active also helps young people to focus on schoolwork better, as well as enjoying more nourishing sleep and the ability to balance emotions.

When in school, kids tend to enjoy breaks with friends where physical activity is the norm, adding to the sports lessons built into the curriculum. Homeschooling is a whole new ballgame though and requires a fresh approach from both children and parents. 

It is crucial to realise that breaking up homeschooling days with some fresh air and activity times can do wonders for performance. Two 30-minute recess breaks throughout the day can pay great dividends, and it can be as simple as throwing a ball around in the garden. Other ideas include children’s yoga, a hula hoop contest, dancing or going for a family walk. There is no need for sports psychologists and intense competition! Just move around and have fun.

It’s even possible to give the kids a few chores to keep them active. Okay, this probably won’t work with the older ones, but most five-year-olds love doing work around the house: sorting laundry, sweeping crumbs off the floor and helping to dust the furniture keeps the kids busy and the home a tad cleaner. Everyone wins!

Make it Entertaining

Without getting too complicated, the objective for exercise with kids is to keep things fun! For children to get moving, and to do so voluntarily, they have to be enticed with entertaining activities that make them smile.

For the under fives, exercise is physical movement in any form, including floor-based play in different positions, such as ‘tummy time’, rolling, or reaching for toys; throwing and catching games; and water-based activities.

Children and young people in the 5-18 age bracket should take part in moderate to vigorous physical activities, working hard enough to raise the heartbeat, so that breathing is harder and you begin to sweat, but are still able to talk. This could take in skipping, body resistance exercises, such as sit-ups and push-ups, and bike riding. And because you may not have access to a gym, get creative with things you already own. Make use of bottles for weights or a well-made chair for step-ups. 

Now is also a chance to focus on family time and create new traditions. Why not have them help to cook dinner once a week, arrange a family game night, or simply pick a time to sit down and read a book together.

Forced to Slow Down

Make sure to speak to your children regularly and help them work through their fears and concerns about Covid-19.  Don’t try to fool them either, fobbing them off with platitudes such as “everything will be okay.” However, it’s fine to say that things will get back to ‘normal’ at some point, and the activities they love to do will be available once again. 

One of the most exciting things to have happened is that the pandemic has forced us all to slow down, giving us time to pause and reflect. The frenzied pace of the modern world had made our lives into an exhausting daily marathon. But with almost everything shut down and social distancing becoming a norm, the forced slowdown has allowed us to take a pause and catch our breath. We have begun to notice nature and the environment more, we have time for friends and family, and we no longer live to the mantra ‘whoever has the most things when he dies wins’. Life has become gentler, and this is good for mind, body and soul.