Just like exercise relieves stress and enhances productivity in adults, the same applies to children. With the amount of pressure kids experience in school today, to perform well academically, participate in cultural activities and make the school sports team, there seems to be little time for some relaxed physical activity. But, physical activity releases dopamine, helps them focus better in the classroom, enhances their mood and helps them sleep better at night.
Help children fall in love with physical activity by making it fun, even if you as a parent don’t like to exercise. Take this as an opportunity to spend some quality time with your kids. If you can find 15 minutes at least 3 times a week it will be a great start. Try to find exercises that are fun and playful. You can do it in bursts of 5-10 minutes at a time, and you can always add a reward for them at the end. The best is to start with a warm-up, just to get their bodies loose and get their heart rate up.
Here are some exercises you can do together as a family.
Kids love to play and run. It comes naturally and it’s easy to turn running into other games. Kids can run outside in the garden, in your local park, in a gymnasium, or even around a large table. Kids like to run around and around and around something.
To ensure that they don’t get bored easily, change this activity up. Add various movement activities to help them use all their limbs. You can also let them run on one spot, lift their knees up high, skip on the spot, run from side to side, or do laps where they must touch the line, run to other side and touch the other line. Change of direction works both their muscles and brains, and this helps improve kids’ coordination.
Jumping has many benefits that you may not even know about. It builds muscle strength, cardiovascular fitness, and endurance. It comes in handy in any sport, and the foundation of fitness is where they will reap rewards in their sporting careers. Here are a few different jumps they can do:
- Jumping jacks: Stretch arms and legs out to the side like a starfish while jumping, return arms to sides and legs to centre on landing.
- Tuck jumps: Bend knees and lift heels high while jumping.
- Hurdle hops: Jump side-to-side or front-to-back over imaginary hurdles.
- One-foot hops: Lift one knee and jump on standing leg; alternate. This can also count as a great balance challenge.
- Criss-cross feet: Jump straight up, then cross one foot in front of the other; on next jump, switch feet and continue.
Squats and Lunges
Squats and lunges are not everyone’s cup of tea, however, both exercises build leg muscle strength and can help improve balance. You can do forward and side lunges. Classic squats are the easiest, but you can always add a jump to the squat to add more variety.
Sit-ups and Push-ups
Basic exercises like sit-ups and push-ups can be done anywhere and the progress in their strength becomes visible when they start doing them regularly. These exercises are best for building their upper body and core strength. There are many varieties for sit-ups: traditional abdominal crunches, bicycle crunches, legs-up sit-ups, and more. Change it up to work all the different muscles and improve their endurance. Push-ups build upper body strength, tightens their core and help with balance.
In the end, physical exercise should be fun for them. Some games like catching a ball, throwing a frisbee, doing a relay and playing “Simon Says” gets their bodies moving and their minds working. If you can enhance their physical foundation, they will thank you in the future.
By Sunél de Beer