Written by R. S Jacobs

exercise-bike-imageA topic that is becoming increasingly alarming is the health of the youngest generation, who will be responsible for shaping the future in our ever-changing world!  A child’s health is fundamentally an integral part of their wellbeing, and a parent who fails in their duty to monitor their child’s physical activity and food intake is actively contributing to the long-term health problems of their child.

The problem is that we live in a society where everyone is so afraid to confront this rising epidemic amongst the most vulnerable. Have things got so bad that it is easier to sit back and watch parents demonstrate neglectful behaviour by encouraging poor diet and exercise choices than to stand up and speak up for what is right and in the best interest of the child. Is anyone actually aware that if we don’t make a change now, things will only get worse?

Obese children will grow up to be obese adults, and in turn, go on to have obese children…and the cycle continues from generation to generation until hospitals can no longer cope with the obesity epidemic that is staring us right in the face. Healthcare will be extortionately high, and everyone will be hooked on medication. In this present age, most kids are exhibiting heart, liver and bone diseases which are mostly associated with old age. Is this a world you want the future generation to grown up in?

Now you might think that this seems overly dramatic, but having grown up in a home where poor food and exercise choices were normal, I can attest to the fact that this should be a basic requirement for every parent. Many children grow up with the notion that “I was always big as a child, so I didn’t stand a chance”, which is actually not true, but they certainly are not given the slightest chance. The sad fact is that nowadays, kids are living increasingly sedentary lives, they prefer to stay indoors, surf the net, play video games and watch TV.

If that wasn’t bad enough, as some of my previous articles have highlighted, the food industry has created a melting pot of irresistible low-fat snacks that are actually pumped full of sugar, branded and advertised specifically to the younger generation. So, when you look at the big picture, it seems like parents don’t have much of a fighting chance either…but you would be mistaken!

This world is full of temptation and if we can’t teach kids how to resist the endless distractions they face every single day, then we are failing in our duties. This will not only apply to what they eat and how active they are as kids, but it is also essential for their character-building. Kids are like sponges and are very impressionable, they learn what they see from the people around them that influence their every move. Have you ever seen those videos of toddlers swearing without knowing what they are even saying? You have to think, they learnt it from someone!

Our bodies are specifically designed to be active, and age does not discriminate when it comes to moving it. Therefore, kids just like adults, have to keep their body agile to effectively perform biological, physiological and psychological obligations. Likewise, more and more kids are getting obese because their parents are too busy/lazy to even cook a proper meal and they are left with no option than to have ready-made processed food, basically just eating spoonfuls of sugar every day.

As an adult, I look back at my childhood and I wished that someone had explained to me the importance of good nutrition and an active life. It is a sad fact that often the only place that physical activity is talked about lightly is in schools, however, it is very limited advice that gently encourages an exercise-based lifestyle as optional. The fact is that it’s very difficult for teachers to overcome years of bad habits that parents have inflicted on their kids from such a young age.

Having an active life should be as essential as eating food, drinking water and sleeping. It should be considered as important as breathing air, and it needs to be integrated into kids routines on a daily basis from a very tender age. I would strongly recommend starting some form of low impact sport (like yoga, swimming or cycling) from around 5 years of age. We often overlook the fact that kids have a lot more energy than we give them credit for, which is why many parents would rather constrain them in front of a TV or computer screen rather than taking the time to play or go for a walk.

Of course, we live in a world where time is precious, there are endless distractions, work, social media, friends, and deadlines, but kids grow up so fast and when they grow up, they don’t look back at fond memories of the TV, but they remember the special moments they spent bonding with their family. I find it kind of weird that as kids playing outside is fun, but as adults, it becomes a chore and something many people grow to resent.

Let’s go over few basic health benefits kids can gain from exercising.

* Strong Heart. Many parents fear their kid’s heart might be too small to handle the pressure of exercising but studies have shown that is not the case. It actually has a massive positive impact in preventing heart issues from arising. The heart is a muscular organ that works better when it is being used. So, start today by encouraging your kids to take up running, playing sports or even just get out of the house for a walk as a family.

* Prevent Obesity. Children who are obese are very likely to remain obese as an adult, putting them at higher risk of heart disease, asthma, type 2 diabetes, and serious self-esteem issues. All these problems can dramatically reduce their life expectancy. With this in mind, it is even more important to teach your children the benefits of exercising. It will impact them mentally, physically and psychologically in a very positive way.

* Stronger Bones.  There is no doubt that one of the most crucial stages for bone development is during childhood right through until about the age of 21. With proper exercise, you can strengthen your child’s bone compactness and density which will equally prevent the early onset of bone diseases such as osteoporosis, arthritis, and bone wastage.

* Brain Power. When kids exercise, they are not only going to benefit by getting fitter but it also helps them to become smarter. Exercise increases the flow of blood to the brain, which heightens alertness and mental focus. As a result, exercise makes it much easier for children to absorb information. In addition, it also helps their coordination and overall mental performance.

* Good Behaviour. Studies show that exercise helps to create a happy hormonal balance in the body which assists in producing a positive feeling in both children and adults. Due to the disciplined nature of exercise in general, children are able to learn how to follow techniques and rules. Exercise is also an excellent stress reliever, researchers have indicated that exercise works better than drugs in handling children with ADHD and autism.

* Healthy Weight. We all know that exercise is beneficial for weight management as an adult, and this principle is exactly the same for kids. With regular activity combined with a healthy diet, children are able to stay lean, strong and agile. Studies have also shown that kids who exercise have a higher self-esteem and positive body image which transfers to their adult life.

* Better Sleep. As kids grow up, they need a sound night sleep. Kids in this day and age have a very poor sleeping routine. Children are full of energy and it is advisable to let them use this energy as nature intends. You will find that after the sun goes down, they will fall asleep faster and for longer. Better sleep means more cognitive development and healthy growth!

In conclusion, set an example by staying active and living a healthy lifestyle, so children have something positive to copy. Kids mirror most of what the parents do at a very early stage, so why not set them up for greatness. Make exercise a priority in your home and make sure they abide by it consistently. Try not to be too strict either, exercise doesn’t have to be a chore, let them have fun with it. Your family will be happier, healthier and a shining example to others around. This is the best gift you can give to them as a parent.

Stay strong, warriors.

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