Fit for kids
Our kids top the charts for childhood obesity. What best way to fight the flab than by exercising with your kids, says Matthew Muscat Inglott.
Fifty Shades of Grey might have been this summer’s sizzling and sensational literary bestseller. But as the rousing breeze ushers in the first autumn clouds, the sun casts its fading rays and dull shades of grey seem far less enticing.
At least, these meteorological changes and the end of summer are offset by the crisp scent of brand new books and stationery. Uniforms are stirred from their summer-long hibernation and pressed back into faithful scholastic service.
The back to school period is once again upon us and it’s not just for the kids. Whatever your age, going back to school as the stifling temperatures plummet beckons a new season of revived routines, rekindled productivity, and renewed vigour.”
All but the most hardcore fitness enthusiasts tend to hang up their sneakers and savour the sizzling summer months of rest and recuperation. Frolicking across sandy beaches and rushing form one social engagement to another may be loosely termed as physical activity, but if you want full-bodied beauty then you’ve got to get busier.
So, what physical activity or sport will you and your kids take up this year?
It’s never been easier to get active. But, mums and dads, just consider how by hitting the gym or engaging in frequent home-based exercise programmes, you won’t just get in great physical shape, but can also teach your kids about the importance of physical activity in the most effective way imaginable – by example.
For your kindergarten-aged kids, keep playtime as active as possible. You could set up a simple yet imaginative obstacle course at home using boxes, stools, and cushions. Get them moving over, under, around, and through your course. Running, jumping, rolling, and sliding allow young children to discover and enjoy their own bodies and associated movement.
The earlier you start, the easier it is to instill a fit for life ethic, thus ensuring your children will one day grow into healthy adults who indulge in sport and physical activity habitually and voluntarily. Physical activity will also help them protect themselves against heart disease and other inactivity-related conditions that might adversely affect their quality of life and longevity.
In Malta, we top the charts for childhood obesity – therefore, by engaging our own young ones we can all help contribute to the national fat-fighting initiative.
As your kids grow up into early primary school age, encourage the use of sports equipment and implements like balls, bats, racquets, or hula-hoops. Simple drills involving throwing, catching, rolling, and hitting form a solid foundation upon which more complex skills can be built over the coming years. Active play combined with a diet low in refined sugar and rich in natural foods is without doubt the easiest preliminary strategy we can implement in combating the hyperactivity and attention difficulties so many of our children suffer from. In this way we can also cut down on the threat of type-two diabetes.
At upper primary school age, encourage participation in formal sport or physical activity. Private nurseries employ experts in their chosen sports and represent an ideal launch pad towards an active lifestyle or sporting career.
Government also offers first class sports programmes for kids for next to nothing. The Malta Sports Council has an impressive range of choices, from athletics, basketball and cricket to swimming, tennis and martial arts.
Team and individual sports alike harness not just physical but also social skills at this critical age. What better way to effortlessly and naturally interact with others and make new friends?
For all young children, favour toys that promote physical activity like balls, frisbees, and trampolines. And how about a table tennis set-up the whole family can enjoy? Whatever you choose should encroach on time that might otherwise be spent engaged in sedentary activities.
Young teenagers will benefit from pursuing the sports and physical activities that interest them the most. Alternative activities like orienteering, climbing, swimming, or diving are all activities your teen might consider should the more mainstream options fail to hold their interest.
Group fitness classes and gym memberships are also an accessible option at this stage of development in an industry starting to ditch the antiquated over-16-only culture and embrace youth fitness training. This is the time to invest in bone and delay the onset of declining bone density later in life. Also, studies have revealed the stress-busting effects of exercise, and shown what a simple solution physical activity can be for decreasing anxiety in teenagers.
Many higher education institutions also offer state of the art facilities for older students. The University and MCAST colleges boast inclusive sports programmes and leagues for recreational competitors as well as assistance and support for national-level athletes.
International studies continue to confirm a link between physical activity and improved academic performance, so don’t be too hasty to write it off as a distraction or waste of precious study time.
Take action with this change of season – what physical activities will you discover under these shades of grey?
Matthew Muscat Inglott is a personal trainer at Noble Gym. www.noble-gym.com