2016, Charlene Yared West, health & wellness, Magazine: Life Healthcare

Get kids moving

Unplug yourself from social media, get your trainers on and get the kids moving. 

There are 20-million children in South Africa and of those, 60 percent attend under-resourced schools, which often means they have little, limited or no access to physical education. Physical activity is vital for a child’s development and lays the foundation for a healthy and active life. In South Africa, every school-going child should access at least 90 minutes of physical activity per week, within the prescribed school curriculum. However, since physical education was removed from the school curriculum in 1999, children have become more sedentary, opting to spend free time connected to the internet, where it is accessible, exercising no more than their thumbs on small screens. South African children have poor physical activity levels, according to the 2014 Healthy Active Kids South Africa Report Card and as adult South Africans, we have a responsibility to inspire our youngsters to move more for better health and longevity. Charlene Yared-West speaks to the experts for some inspiring and fun ways to get kids moving… 

A bleak future without exercise

Dr Claire Nicholson, founder of the Move-It, Moving it Matters™ Programme points out a sad trajectory into adult life for children who do not exercise. “Without change, we can expect to see obese adults with life spans shorter than their parents,” she says. Dr Nicholson heads the programme Move-It, Moving it Matters™ (movingmatters.co.za), a healthy, active living initiative and one of its funding partners is Life Healthcare, which is committed to quality supporting interventions. It continues to gain momentum and respect locally, nationally and internationally and is a powerful educational suite of Programmes which stimulate positive engagements in activity, for life. The programme is currently in the hands of 20,000 children in Public schools across South Africa. “Our aim is to educate adults and children about the immense value of physical activity and to make it a fun alternative so that they go out there and just do it!” she explains. 

Make exercise fun and meaningful
Show your kids you care and give them the gift of your time when you set out for physical activity, explains Tracy Clifford Statt, hypnosis practitioner for the motivational exercise programme Hypnocize.co.za. “The fun factor is very important and children prefer short bursts of activity. Also, avoid nagging and negative language and be sensitive to insecurities like being overweight, or uncoordinated. Choose appropriate activities which won’t embarrass the participants,” she says. “It is also very helpful to set daily goals  for activity with your children – begin with short 10 minute bursts and work up to 30 minute play sessions.” 

Encouragement and support are key

Mr Kiruben Naicker, biokineticist at Life Mount Edgecombe Hospital in KwaZulu Natal notes that he is seeing more children with from obesity in his practice, from as young as seven or eight years old. “Parents often think their children will grow out of their baby-fat… until they see that children have in fact grown into obesity. Obese kids often become obese adults unless a lifestyle change is made,” he says. “Children need good examples to follow, encouragement and support – and parents play a big role in this. Whether it is washing the car together on a Sunday afternoon, taking a walk on the beach or showing them it’s a healthier choice to take the stairs instead of the lift are all good ways of imparting the importance of movement. Choose age appropriate activities and the sky’s the limit!” 

Be interested in their interests

“Children should be overjoyed by their own joy – and parents should partake in that joy by showing an interest in their children’s interests,” says Dr Nicholson. “So, even if that interest is in building Legos, parents should get onto the floor and play with their children. This can be built upon and taken outdoors where it can become a more physical activity, like building with bricks for example. Pay attention to what they are drawn to for clues into what they possibly would enjoy.”  

Invest in their lives

According to Andrew Wyllie, Personal Trainer and owner at personalsublime.co.za, encouraging movement in children is an investment in their lives. “Exercise builds confidence, encourages teamwork and social skills, helps build physical development and maturity, and also inspires creativity,” he says. “The bottom line is that children need to discover and explore that side of  their own development and be in awe of their amazingly agile and strong bodies.” 

<Sidebar> You don’t need a gym membership to move – explains Naicker. “Always ask yourself the question ‘how can I get my child to be more active?” Here are some ideas to get you started…

  • Play catch in the backyard. 
  • Go riding a bike together.
  • Take a morning family stroll  in nature.
  • Grab a towel and go to the beach. 
  • Take the stairs instead of a lift.
  • Take a walk instead of a drive.
  • Ban Technology for a day – then be ready to engage children in an activity like Twister.
  • Go for a swim as a family.
  •  Take it outside – indoor activity is sweaty and stifling.
  • Plan for Rainy Days – a novel activity like blowing up balloons and chasing them around the room.

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