From building strong bones to improving emotional resilience, here are ten benefits of sport for kids.
Whether it’s running and climbing in the park, or taking part in an organised sport, regular exercise will help your child to increase their bone and muscle strength, which reduces their risk of injury. “Any exercise that’s weight-bearing can be really beneficial,” advises Alex Taylor, Children’s Fitness Coach from KizLoveFit. “This can mean just carrying your own bodyweight, so running, jumping or climbing are great. With strong bones, kids are less likely to suffer from stress fractures.”
With childhood obesity never far from the headlines, ensuring your kids have plenty of exercise is one way to combat this growing problem. However, try to instil the idea that exercise is fun, rather than simply a means of shedding a few pounds! And remember, a healthy diet is also important for growing kids – so bring a banana for an after-sport snack rather than reaching for a chocolate treat!
While not all sport takes place outdoors, encouraging your child to exercise in natural light can be doubly beneficial. Exposure to sunlight can help to top up levels vitamin D, which is essential for the absorption of crucial minerals.
Endorphins, known as the happy hormones, are released when we exercise. So as well as having fun playing sport, your child will be filling herself with nature’s natural anti-depressants simply by exercising. Endorphins also have a role in stress-reduction, so exercise can also be a great way to offset the pressure of the classroom.
Getting into the exercise habit now could set your child up for life! Sport-loving kids often continue good habits into adulthood, setting the foundation for a healthy future. “The earlier you get children into the exercise habit, the better,” agrees Taylor. “Regular exercise and seeing results can be really motivating for kids.”
Whether it’s kicking a ball into the corner of the net or hula-hooping for longer periods of time, learning or refining a skill can be useful both in and out of the sporting arena. While your kid may not become the next member of team GB, many of the skills learned on the court or pitch are useful for brain development, spatial awareness and hand-eye-coordination; the variety of movement afforded by different activities means it’s not just your child’s body but his brain that is getting a workout.
We’ve all been there. In adult life, we often have to tolerate or even work with people with whom we don’t see eye-to-eye. Becoming part of a sports team can be a great way for your child to discover that, while we may not be best friends with everyone we meet, it doesn’t mean we can’t find a way to work together. Learning to tolerate and work around different people could stand them in good stead both now and in the future.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of setting yourself a goal, working hard and achieving your aim. Whether it’s shaving 30 seconds from a run, being able to flick a ball through a hoop with ease during netball or mastering a new ramp on your skateboard, learning that hard work leads to self-improvement is a great lesson for your child. Plus, experiencing the thrill of achievement may help to develop their ambition in other areas too.
9Dealing with disappointment
Let’s face it. None of us is good at everything we try. And even if we’re great at a sport, it doesn’t mean we’re always going to win. The element of competitiveness in many sports and the drive to achieve will, at times, lead to failure and disappointment. Losing isn’t the greatest feeling in the world, but learning to deal with the disappointment and come out fighting rather than sulking is an important life lesson.
“Winning or losing are important parts of life,” agrees Taylor. “At times, we can be a little overprotective of our children’s emotions. But letting them go through negative emotions with the support of a team, coach or parent is really important. They learn to handle these feelings rather than never experience them.”
Participating in exercise could also work wonders for your child’s self-esteem. Whether it’s due to those essential endorphins, as a result of achieving a goal or simply because they feel fit and look great, regular exercise will help your child to feel good about themselves. In a society where social media can leave all of us feeling inadequate, anything that boosts self-esteem has to be a plus!
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