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What can be done to encourage children to exercise more?

Everyone knows that exercise is good for general health and well-being at all ages. As a father of two young children, it’s always in the front of my mind about keeping them active and at this age away from the distractions of technology. It is especially important, as it can help build up positive lifelong habits and avoid the pitfalls that can result from a modern sedentary, indoors based lifestyle. One of the many challenges facing those who work in the healthcare sector is working out how to encourage children to exercise more and to raise awareness amongst parents and guardians.

Importance for youngsters

With my children, I know first-hand that habits that are developed at a young age can stay with our children for life, and this applies to those that are both good and bad for them in the long term. Obviously, there is a lot of awareness when it comes to making sure children are discouraged from activities that can be harmful, such as smoking cigarettes. However, there equally needs to be a realisation that helping to set up beneficial habits is extremely important. Nursing staff can play a key role in showcasing these benefits when advising on lifestyle choices and recovery methods.

Not only does exercise help growing bodies develop in terms of musculature, posture, aerobic capacity and more, it also helps build discipline and self-awareness when it comes to looking after our bodies and staying fit and healthy.

Worrying stats

Research from Public Health England and Disney has suggested that the number of children doing an hour of exercise a day falls by nearly 40% between the ages of five and 12 and that by the final year of primary school only 17% of pupils are doing the recommended amount of physical activity each day. This drop in activity levels was described as "concerning" by a spokesman for Public Health England and contributes to the fact that more than a third of children in England are overweight by the time they leave primary school.

Accessible activities

According to an NHS report published in December 2016, a reason cited by many children for not taking part in some physical activities was that they thought they were “not very good” at it. This detrimental self-consciousness can carry on into later life and is something that can be focused on by healthcare staff across the spectrum.

At home, I always try to encourage my children to be more active, but innovative thinking and accessible activities can also play an important role. As part of the Change4Life campaign, for example, Sport England has partnered with Disney to launch a 10 Minute Shake Ups programme which is aimed at encouraging children to take part in activities during the school holidays over the summer.

Keri-Anne Payne, the Olympic marathon swimmer who is backing the campaign, believes the scheme can provide a range of fun activities that encourage kids to move more. In her own words; “Being active is not just for Olympians, it's for everyone.”

In our family, a trampoline is for life not just your birthday and it’s good for us all to have a workout on. Just a thought…

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