The key to kids’ fitness? Child’s play

(Photo: Freepik)
Growing up, many of us spent more of our time outdoors than in. Without console video games and tablets there was nothing else to do other than go outside and play, whether by yourself or with other children in the neighborhood. For all the good modern technology has done for humanity, there are new societal issues left in its wake.اضافة اعلان

People’s lives have changed drastically in recent decades, particularly affecting child development. Children now do not have the same childhood as their parents did, and there’s been a notable shift from outdoor time to screen time. Whether it is due to electronic devices or ever-growing metropolitan areas, kids are simply not getting enough physical activity.

Jordan is not immune to this shift in child development. One study conducted in 2006 on Jordanian school children between the ages of 6 and 12 found that 19.4 percent were overweight and 5.6 percent were obese. Only 10 years later, a 2016 study found that 25.1 percent of Jordanian school children between the ages of 6 and 12 were overweight and 12.6 percent were obese.

Health benefits of physical activity in children

Physical activity has health benefits no matter the age but is particularly important in child development. In children, exercise can reduce obesity, blood pressure in children with mild essential hypertension (high blood pressure), and cholesterol and triglyceride levels in those with high cholesterol or obesity. It can also improve aerobic fitness, muscular strength, and endurance.

What is even more interesting is physical activity’s impact on bone health. One study found that children who maintained high levels of physical activity had 14 percent more bone mineral content (BMC) in their femoral head and 5 percent more whole-body BMC. The femur is the thigh bone and is responsible for baring high impact and weight and therefore needs to be strong. High BMC can result in greater bone density, which improves bone strength and resistance to fractures.

Most importantly, physical activity also helps children develop mentally. The benefits of physical activity include improved psychosocial well-being, reduced risk of depression, and improved cognitive performance. Additionally, those who participate in organized programs learn better basic motor skills and social skills such as teamwork and sportsmanship.

A Chilean study found that children with good physical fitness had statistically higher academic achievements than those who did not. A Jordanian study also found similar results, where participants with higher academic achievements were more likely to report participating in more physical classes and spending more than 20 minutes exercising during those classes.
Recommendations for fitness children’s

Guidelines for children’s fitness vary depending on the source and the age range. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children between the ages of three and five should be physically active throughout the day and should be encouraged to be active while playing.

Those aged 6–17 children and adolescents should receive 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity each day but at least three days a week. This includes daily aerobic activities, activities that strengthen bones, and exercises that build muscle, each three days a week. The guidelines for physical activity in children are more detailed than adults but are, at their core, very straightforward and achievable.

Physical activities for children

Fortunately, designing activities for children can be fun and easy. Children have the natural inclination to want to play games so making a workout oriented around a game will provide your child with the required physical activity without them even noticing. Before designing a game though, it is important to understand what activities can or should be incorporated. 
Running should be the foremost activity. When it comes to aerobic exercise and improving cardiovascular fitness, nothing is better than running. Running increases the heart and respiratory rates which are the primary goal of cardio workouts. Additionally, running burns a lot of calories depending on the intensity and improves overall endurance.

Secondly, games that include jumping, squatting, or lunging are also important. They can function as a cardio workout — particularly jumping — but also have the added benefit of strength training. Squats and lunges help workout and develop lower-body muscles.

Finally, push-ups and sit-ups are also important workouts that help develop and exercise the upper body, predominantly the chest and abdomen. Additionally, enrolling your child in sports is an excellent way to ensure they stay active. This can include gymnastics, soccer, or basketball.

Designing your own games

Games that you design yourself don’t have to be intricate or team-based. “Monkey in the Middle”, which can be played with three or more people, is a good example. The game’s core principal is that there is one person in the middle, with the remaining players arrayed in a circle around them.

The objective is for those on the outside to pass the ball to each other without allowing the “monkey in the middle” to intercept the ball. Players swap out with the person in the middle if their pass is successfully intercepted. Generally speaking, players can’t take the ball from someone holding it. Countless variations exist, including passing a football instead, or bouncing a tennis ball.

Read more National news