There are lots of assumptions that it would be easy to make about exercise for young children. Most are dangerous and some could cause them irreparable damage for the rest of their lives. It would, for example, be wrong to assume that young children are full of beans anyway, so we should just let them get on with it. Like the rest of us, unless opportunities are placed in our way to encourage good behaviours we will develop bad habits that will eventually become the norm. Another ‘very wrong’ assumption is that some children are naturally ‘sporty’ and others are more ‘academically’ gifted. This simply is not true.
You Are Awesome
If you doubt the last statement, go and read any of the science and social proof-laden books written by Matthew Syed over the last few years. His latest ‘You Are Awesome’ has been written specifically for children and demonstrates how genes have almost nothing to do with being the very best at anything you want to achieve.
The fact is, that physical health and fitness is a choice that we make for ourselves as adults. And for our children it is a choice that we can help them to make – the sooner the better.
Some of the short and long-term benefits of early years physical activity include:
- Healthy growth and physical development: leading to stronger bones, muscles and joints in later life
- Stronger hearts and lungs: reducing the chance of heart or respiratory disease in the future
- Enthusiasm and interest in fitness and activity: generating ongoing good habits and a lifetime of health
- Self-assurance and self-esteem: cultivating a basis for future good social skills and self-contentment
- Heightened focus and concentration at school: serving as a platform for better jobs and standard of life
- Developing a strong posture and good balance: protecting against back and muscle problems in older age
(Please note – this list is just the start – I could give you many more examples if you wanted me too…)
In the UK today, we have never seen such high levels of obesity, diabetes, cancer, stress, suicide, other mental and emotional issues, and a whole host of so-called ‘modern’ problems. We bemoan the lack of NHS funding, doctors and nurses shortages and the pressures of living in the twenty-first century – but the answer is in the palm of our hands.
Yes, we do need to tackle those issues for the people that are going through the consequences now. But we should also stop feeding the beast. Every child that starts their life with poor health and fitness habits will end up in that system somewhere. If, however, we can influence, educate, inspire and promote physical activity in the youth, many of the issues putting our nation under pressure today will simply go away.
This is not rocket science!
It is just common sense. In my experience, children love to run around, have fun and be active. All we need to do is tap into this inbuilt desire to exercise and give them more opportunities to engage with good health. Of course, there are eating habits and the distractions of TV, games and other flashy lights to balance out too… But, I firmly believe that, given the opportunity to indulge in carefully designed, physical activities will capture their attention and might just change their lives forever.