Keep on Movin'

keep on moving

With the end of daylight savings and the colder weather drawing closer, it’s tempting to let the kids stay indoors more and exercise less. However, the benefits of encouraging physical activity far outweigh the comforts of staying cooped up inside. Keep your kids moving – with any kind of activity – and they will be far better off for it.

There are so many benefits for keeping kids active – whether by playing an actual sport or simply keeping their fitness levels up with whatever kind of exercise they enjoy. Beyond the obvious physical benefits, there are many social and behavioural advantages to having your kids involved with either an organised sport or some kind of exercise. Keeping active over winter also means that kids as outdoor free-play becomes less practical and opportunities for full-on physical activity are limited, your child will maintain and even increase their fitness and activity levels, when many of us feel a natural urge to stay indoors and be far less active. Exercise gets kids moving, gets them learning and thinking.

For some kids, the word sport conjures up negative images of team sports they don’t enjoy and competing against their super fit peers; however, the word sport actually encompasses a huge range of physical activities, from martial arts, badminton, rock climbing and waterpolo to dancing, gymnastics and cheerleading, right through to orienteering, archery, sailing, table tennis, snowsports, horseriding – there really is something for everyone.

With so much competition these days from technology and other recreation opportunities, it’s good to see the results of a recent study. In September 2012, Sport NZ released results from their 2011 Young People’s Survey that looked into the way young New Zealanders participate in sport and recreation activities. Of the 17,000 primary, intermediate and secondary school children surveyed, overall the news is good. It seems our kids are participating and enjoying a range of activities, with the following results:

1   7 out of 10 boys (72.6%) and 6 out of 10 girls (60.3%) said they like playing sport a lot.

2   Very few young people said they don’t like playing sport (3.5% of boys and 5% of girls).

3   More boys than girls of all ages said they like playing sport a lot.

The survey didn’t just investigate ‘organised’ sports in teams, but also school sports and the freestyle activities that kids engage in.

physical benefits

It’s a different world from when we were kids. While sports were just as important in our day, every kid also had the opportunity for a whole lot more exercise, with freedom to roam the streets and play without too much adult supervision. The need for increased supervision means that kids don’t get as much ‘free roaming’. Because of this, we need to more actively contribute to our children’s physical fitness, especially as they get older and ‘free play’ at junior school is reduced and replaced.

During winter, this need is increased as kids spend lunchtimes cooped up in classrooms avoiding the weather. The reports on kids’ fitness and the rising rates of obesity in our youngsters are alarming, but exercise is a fabulous way to ensure our kids get their 30 minutes a day of activity. From a physical point of view, the benefits of sports over free play come down to the structure and skills required. With a specific set of skills needed to play a game, our kids have the opportunity to not only learn these new skills but also see how practice can help them develop and improve them over time.

health benefits

The benefits of exercise from a physical point of view are the same as for us adults, with health benefits in the short and long term. However, while we adults can join a gym to get fit, sport is often the best way to get your child active without making physical activity seem like a chore. Kids who exercise will increase their levels of the feel-good hormones seratonin and endorphins, making for happier and more settled children.

behavioural benefits

Not all of us are winners at all times, and sport teaches kids not only about how it feels to put in effort and get results; but also the valuable lesson that sometimes, despite effort, we can’t always take out the winners’ trophy. The lessons of good sportsmanship are ones that will carry through from the sports field into the workplace. Getting up on a wet or cold winter weekend morning to play sports, week after week, teaches our kids an important lesson in discipline; some weekends, the gaming console will be calling but they’ll learn that even when the weather says ‘stay home’, it’s important to get on with it.

social benefits

The benefits of sport are not all physical. A sports field is a great social leveller, teaching kids how to navigate themselves and manage conflict within clearly defined boundaries. It’s also an easy way to meet like-minded new friends, and is a wonderful confidence-builder.

specific sports skills

netball: The fast stop/start nature of this game makes it perfect for improving agility and speed. A netball player will get their heart rate up quite high with intermittent bursts of activity. The nature of the game grid means long distance running is not needed but leg power for jumping is important.

soccer: A big field means big puff, with players getting aerobically fit. The ball skills in soccer are excellent for coordination and agility. There are some specific elements too in soccer ball skills that give kids motivation to practice over and over again with something to show for it.

rugby: Rugby is all about strength and power. There is also a fair amount of running to keep players aerobically fit. While size is a definite advantage for the adult player, the adaption of the rules for kids’ games means smaller kids have just as much fun and a chance to excel.

the cost of gear

Eye watering isn’t it? The cost of fees and gear and transport just keeps adding up.

  • Most clubs will have a time payment option for fees to make that easier, just ask.
  • On the gear front, go second hand all the way — for every parent needing gear is a parent with outgrown gear from last season.
  • It’s easy to get carried away thinking that it is in your child’s best interest to be able to do any and every sport. Unless you have a child who is super keen, it’s okay to limit the number of sporting codes and choose a team based on location and cost.
  • A happy and stress-free parent will equal a better sporting experience for any child.

“Sport actually encompasses a huge range of physical activities, from martial arts, badminton, rock climbing and waterpolo to dancing, gymnastics and cheerleading, right through to orienteering, archery, sailing, table tennis, snowsports, horseriding – there really is something for everyone.

Julz Darroch is a Wellington based fitness educator, and parent of Jack and Ruby.

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