I hope our May blog series on why exercise is important for you, your work and your marriage has inspired you to make some positive changes. I can’t tell you enough how important it is to make exercise a regular part of your life. But there is one additional topic I would like to explore with you, and that is why exercise is so important for kids.
Boost Their Confidence
There is a clear link between exercise and self-esteem from a very young age. When we get our kids involved in physical activity, it tends to help them take a second look at their capabilities in a very positive way. They feel better about themselves and have a more positive outlook. With physical activities such as hiking, kayaking, playing tag, climbing trees — all of these activities can increase feelings of competence. It is important to remember that when it comes to our kids, we shouldn’t limit them by defining the idea of exercise too narrowly. Sometimes it’s just as simple as getting outside!
If you went to your kid’s room right now and said, “Come on. We need to exercise,” what kind of response would you get? I’m guessing a groan followed by a pillow over the head. Kids tend to be more interested in regular physical activity when it’s fun. Isn’t that also true of adults? If you were to say, “Hey, let’s pack a snack and bike down to the park!” don’t you think it would be met with more interest than any sort of regimented activity? I have noticed that when adults talk negatively about their own bodies and groan when it’s time to work out, their kids will pick up on that, and they often emulate it. So keep exercise a fun experience as much as possible.
Help Them Learn
Remember when we were kids, and gym class and recess happened every day? I sure do! I can still remember playing dodgeball in the gym, and kickball once the weather turned warm. You’ve probably noticed, though, that things are a bit different nowadays. The modern kid does not get nearly as much time outdoors as previous generations did. Heck, they barely have a recess anymore. There’s growing evidence that this is having a negative impact when it comes to kids understanding new things and retaining information. Physical activity boosts focus, memory, and creativity. So having your kids exercise may actually make it easier to learn. When your kids are home and working on their homework, try having them go outside for a few minutes to break up their homework sessions. Have them toss a ball, do the hula-hoop, or have them try a goofy ten-minute dance party. Give them fun opportunities to exercise that will help stimulate their ability to learn.
Give the Gift of Health
Most people know that exercise helps kids keep body fat down, and reduces the likelihood of Type 2 diabetes. But there’s a lot more to it than that. Exercise helps strengthen kids’ lungs, decreases their risk of asthma, and it can reduce their future chances of suffering from heart disease. It increases bone density, too, reducing the risk of osteoporosis (especially in daughters.) So there really is little downside to making sure your kids stay active.
There’s one last benefit to being active with your kids: a closer relationship with you. Coaching your kid to ride their bike for the first time, having a splash fight in a creek, playing nine holes of golf or chatting with each other during a long walk — these are special parenting moments many of us want to remember most. So when you’re trying to decide what to do with your evening or weekend, I encourage you to seek out opportunities to do something that will help you stay physically active and build a closer relationship in the process.