According to the NHS website children under the age of five should not be inactive for long periods of time unless they are sleeping. Included in its ‘inactivity’ descriptions are watching TV, travelling in the car, being strapped in a buggy and other sedentary behaviours. Obviously, these cannot be avoided completely, but awareness is half the cure for almost any issue.
The good news is that even light activity can have a significant positive impact on a child’s physical health and mental wellbeing. So you don’t need to push five-year-olds into joining the local running club, taking up mountain biking, or putting them on a ‘future Olympian’ training program to get them moving. Simply encouraging them to walk for part of the buggy ride, stopping for a movement break when on long car journeys, or having a playtime between favourite TV shows would help.
Good habits to last a lifetime…
Children grow up (some faster than others) and develop habits along the way. With the latest figures showing that the vast majority of the UK population today are overweight – we should perhaps stop and think what that means for our children’s future. That might sound overdramatic, but the evidence shows that installing good activity habits in children will significantly improve their chances of remaining fit and healthy as teenage, mid and later life kick in.
And it is not just weight that is at stake! Regular physical movement throughout the day has been proven to help in the development of: motor skills, cognitive functionality, stronger bones and muscles and learning social skills. Our bodies are designed to move and doing what we are designed to do is the best way to preserve our wellbeing.
If you have or you know any children under the age of five (or older for that matter), do them a massive favour and find a way to encourage them to move more. If the lazy habits are already forming, you might have a job to start with; but once you have got past the initial resistance the act of doing what they were built to do (move) will soon become self-generating. Children that move – will continue to move.
The more children move, the more they will want to…
The fact is that trying to get a forty or fifty-year-old to take up exercise, when they don’t do anything at all, is a fruitless task. The millions of lapsed gym memberships each year bear testament to this. But if a child, even one with a propensity for non-participation, is gently pushed into a routine of movement – they will embrace its benefits.
To help a child meet Public Health England’s physical activity guidelines is not overly taxing for any parent or teacher. It is often just a case of awareness and creating opportunities to do what comes naturally. The real key, however, is to look for ways to let that natural desire to move become a real passion for physical health. That way, as your children grow and become adults, they will take all of the huge benefits and good habits with them – and end up living longer, healthier happier lives.