A Healthy Body and a Healthy Mind

By Olivia, a personal trainer in London

Children are naturally fit/healthy and flexible aren’t they?

Most of us tell our children that they have to do some kind of exercise to keep them healthy, but if you want to promote health related exercise to children then they have to know the reasons why they are doing it. Being fit and healthy doesn’t mean making your children exercise 2 to 3 times a week and hoping for the best. They have to understand the importance of daily exercise, good nutrition and wellness. This may sound boring but it works. You have to teach children good habits and then that way a healthy lifestyle is easier for them to maintain, after all that is the hard bit………..for all of us!!

So what are the benefits of children exercising? There are obvious answers such as physical fitness and making them stronger, but it also improves their self-esteem, they have more energy, an improved memory and it has social benefits such as being part of a team and making new friends at school/clubs but most importantly you’re laying the foundations for a healthy life!

This sounds great but we all know there are always barriers to exercise as children would generally prefer to do something else like watch tv or play on the computer and they have other external pressures such as homework.

In addition, if no one in the family is active and therefore the positive role model is missing then a child will not naturally reciprocate the active lifestyle. Children who have active families are naturally encouraged to stay healthy as they want to emulate their parents/siblings. We really need to lead by example.

So with so all these barriers what actually encourages children to take part in physical activity?

  • Being good at it or perceiving themselves to be good.
  • Positive encouragement from parents/coaches and role models.
  • Feeling that they are part of a team.
  • Peers; children participate in activities as it is what their friends do.
  • Having a role model – a summer with the Olympics and Euro 2012 being constantly on the TV is really good for this.
  • Dreams or ambitions to make a living out of sport (this is the one I like to use with my boys). I have my own Gareth Bale in the making!

So I have thought of some pointers:

  1. Make it family time; go for walks or bike rides in the park. Turn it into an enjoyable family activity.
  2. Limit their TV time. Not only is this a sedentary activity but children will also be exposed to adverts that are targeting the young consumer with images of unhealthy food and snacks
  3. Reward them for every 20 minutes they are being active. Just make sure that the reward is not a trip to McDonalds.
  4. Be a positive role model! If you lead a healthy and active lifestyle then they are more likely to.