America is facing an inactivity and obesity crisis. Twenty-eight-percent of all Americans are sedentary, meaning they do not participate in any physical activity throughout the year. This number is leveling in most age groups yet continues to climb in young people. If we allow this trend to continue, obesity related healthcare costs will soar in the near future.
Diseases resulting from obesity and lack of exercise include heart disease, hypertension and diabetes, along with more subtle psychological issues such as low self-esteem and poor body image. But all is not lost. By encouraging children to participate in sports, through organized leagues or Physical Education classes in school, health benefits are seen almost immediately. Children also learn skills that can be applied into adulthood including self-discipline, teamwork, leadership and goal setting. Studies have shown that children who are more active perform better than their inactive peers in the classroom.
In this age of computer screens, smartphones and tablets, it may seem like a daunting task to get your child interested in sports. They may rather play soccer in a video game than outside! By keeping these simple guidelines in mind, it can be easy to show kids how fun it is to get active.
Having fun is a large motivator for children to get active. By allowing kids to choose the sports they participate in, they are more likely to stay dedicated, perhaps even discover a life-long passion. Encourage your children to try out different sports, like soccer, football, baseball, swimming, track and field. If they don’t like one, they don’t have to do it forever, and can choose another that they might enjoy more.
Become an active member of your child’s sport league rather than just cheering from the sidelines. Ask to become a coach or help out at practice. Bonding over a new activity is a great way to keep children engaged and establish healthy new family habits.
Working well with others is a necessary life skill, so best to learn at a young age. Being part of a team is a great opportunity for children to develop trust, goal setting, and conversation skills that can be applied in the schoolroom and, later, in the workplace.
Remind your child of the health benefits of playing sports. Better performances on the playing field or in the gym lead to better performances in the classroom. By rewarding kids for great games and grades, you’ll inspire them to make this hard work part of their lives.
Children who see their parents enjoying a sport or other physical activity are more likely to develop the same habits. Make time for exercise and stay motivated yourself – the kids will follow suit and thank you for it. Plus, you will be getting the exercise you need to stay healthy.
Yelling instructions from the sidelines, even with the best intentions, can be confusing and distracting. Avoid adding stress to your child’s game and focus on cheering for the team, let the coach do the coaching.
Participating in age-appropriate sports is important. Young children have a difficult time understanding “team play” and handling the stress of winning and losing until about eight years old. Although it’s never too early to get active, sports should be focused more on enjoyment and learning good sportsmanship.
Children have different competitive personalities, some need motivation to get onto the field, others enjoy playing for fun, and a few thrive on serious competition. Ultimately, the point is to have fun, so be sure the league fits with your child’s personality. In most cases it’s best to concentrate on team bonding rather than the scoreboard. An easy place to find a group is in the participation database on PHITAmerica.org – simply search by sport to discover local leagues in your area.
Winning and losing is part of playing the game. Motivating a losing team can be very challenging, especially with young children because of their fragile self-esteem. Providing consistent positive feedback is crucial. Let them know it is ok to feel disappointed, but focus on steps they can take to improve next time.
Losing a game is difficult, but parents need to remember it is all part of the process. Children must learn from their mistakes, accept accountability, and move onto the next challenge.
Kids who participate in sports are more likely to adopt healthy habits, succeed academically, and have higher self-esteem and self-confidence. They also learn skills like group goal setting and teamwork, valuable tools in the workplace as well as on the playing field.
In the face of this obesity and inactivity crisis, it’s up to parents to set an example and foster a love of overall fitness either through organized sports or free play.
Letting kids decide what to participate in and becoming involved in the community are great ways to motivate them to step away from the television. Through gentle guidance and encouraging words, parents can instill a lifelong love to physical fitness. It’s not only the skills and life lessons that last a lifetime but the friendships made along the way.
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