Benefits of starting exercise early: kids and fitness



With the way the world is changing, we have many people who stay glued to their tv screens, computers and phones all day and in turn end up leading a sedentary lifestyle. Technology is moving too fast and we seem to depend on the internet for a lot more than we did earlier.

More and more people are engaging in less and less physical activities, and this trend is slowly being passed onto the younger generation.

It is recommended that children over five should engage in at least 60 minutes (1 hour) of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity every day. Children under five who are capable of walking unaided should be physically active for at least 180 minutes (3 hours), spread throughout the day.

Technology has changed the way young people view physical activities. I have seen games where by kids sit down and tap on a control pad and the person in the game is actually running track, playing football or even tennis.

 What happened to actually going out and doing those activities?

 Kids tend to want to emulate their parents and also learn a lot from them. So when you have parents who do not exercise, engage in any sort of physical activity or even play a sport there are also high chances the kids follow suit and adopt the same lazy lifestyle.

For kids to want to participate in outdoor activity and sports I personally believe it starts from home with the parents or guardians. Growing up in a sporting family it was easy for me to pick up a sport-football-which I played up to a semi-professional level.

The reason for this from my experience would have to be because my father took it up to himself to make sure I took part in any competition that came up and he motivated me to try until the top level.

If parents would take some time off their busy schedules and actually find out what their kids are interested in I am sure there would be a decline in the number of rising cases of obesity and over-weight children and also a decline in cardiovascular related diseases.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), In 2010, 43 million children (35 million in developing countries) were estimated to be overweight and obese; 92 million were at risk of being overweight.

The worldwide prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity increased from 4.2% in 1990 to 6.7% in 2010. This trend is expected to reach 9.1% or 60 million, in 2020.

The estimated prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity in Africa in 2010 was 8.5% and is expected to reach 12.7% in 2020. The prevalence is lower in Asia than in Africa (4.9% in 2010), but the number of affected children (18 million) is higher in Asia.

Children in urban centers face a higher risk of obesity and cardiovascular diseases as compared to kids in rural areas. In the rural areas kids seem to have more outdoor activities (even though technology is slowly creeping into such environments) and also take part in daily chores that involve a lot of physical manpower and energy.

The food in such areas is also fresh, chances of eating Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) or foods is relatively low. In the urban setting kids are “protected” nowadays and parents don’t want their children going out to play because they will get dirty, sick or hurt, but how else are kids supposed to learn if not by rolling in the mud, cutting their slippers or even just falling down?

In urban centers we buy a lot of produce from supermarkets which are filled with GMOs and produce that has been there for weeks. This is not healthy for kids, even for adults, and because of these foods kids at tender ages look older than they are and fall sick easily.

The hospital becomes a child’s “playground” at such an early age leading to self esteem issues when children haven’t even hit puberty yet.

According to Take The Magic Step, an organisation that helps in promoting healthy lifestyles and well being in both adults and young people, some of the long term health benefits an active child can expect are: A stronger immune system, The body’s ability to fight disease is improved. Children are less prone to colds, allergies, and diseases, including cancer. A reduction of type 2 diabetes by increasing insulin sensitivity and improving carbohydrate metabolism.

Active children also have a lower blood pressure and an improved child cholesterol profile.

These kids also have a strong a strong cardiovascular system, including the heart and lungs. The heart develops a higher “pump-activity” while the child’s heart and lungs are strengthened, supporting the prevention of heart disease.

Rural kids playing

Rural kids playing

Further still, active children are less likely to become overweight and will have better control of their body fat. Overweight children are able to reduce their body weight and body fat due to the physiological effect of burning fat while exercising.

Children develop stronger bone structure and muscle structure.

Additionally, one of the most important benefits of physical activity is that it develops children’s self-esteem and confidence. Their ability to overcome challenging situations improves and they simply enjoy a better, brighter outlook on life.

 Activity young kids can participate in from an early age

 Kids are simple and they need their minds to be engaged fully so they do not get bored with a certain activity. Their concentration span is not as long as that of adults that is why they would do an activity and the moment they either get majorly challenged or bored with it they tend to lose concentration and zone out.

Having worked with young kids coaching them football from the slums of Mukuru Kwa Njenga in Nairobi, with kids you want to have a number of activities involved in one session to make sure their minds any stimulated and challenged.

Do not give them a chance to get bored or uninterested in the activity you are conducting. It is also good to make some of the activities competitive individually and also involve teams this way you are encouraging the child individually and also teaching him or her how to work in a team.

Kids need 100% attention and someone who understands them, who is ready to teach them and is patient, this way a child can get confident and also understand the importance of sports and outdoor activities as they grow up, and how it will promote good health for him or her in later years.

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