Watching what you eat, making sure you get the right amounts of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, vitamins and minerals, along with drinking plenty of water is essential for protecting your health.
But what if you combined eating healthy with regular activity?
The benefits of combining healthy eating and regular exercise go hand-in-hand, and if you select activities that the whole family can enjoy it can become so much more fun than a laboured exercise session.
The NHS recommend 60minutes of exercise per day for children aged 5-18 years (it is also recommended that adults take daily exercise too).
There are two main types of exercise: aerobic exercise, that aids heart health and the cardiovascular system; and anaerobic exercise that mainly uses explosive muscle strength.
Both types of exercise help to strengthen bone density. Most exercise activities combine both aerobic and anaerobic systems.
Aerobic exercise examples are walking, running, jumping, skipping, boxing, cycling and swimming.
Anaerobic exercise examples are jumping, sprinting, throwing, press-ups and weightlifting.
To count as “exercise” a child should feel warm, slightly out of breath and a little sweaty, but still feel comfortable enough to talk. Don’t forget they will need to have a water bottle with them (especially if it is a hot day). Remind them to keep sipping water every 10-20 minutes (or more often if they are thirsty) to remain hydrated.
If your children have a bike, scooter or skipping rope, then this type of play counts as exercise as well as giving children a great sense of freedom. These activities are also a great way for children to learn skills such as eye-hand coordination, balance, perseverance and sharing, whilst setting lifelong, healthy habits.
Walking is another great way to exercise - get outside and go exploring! You can team healthy eating with a walk to a local park or woods and have a picnic. Whist walking you can look for signs of the season, pick up leaves, or bark to create a collage, or try to identify the animals, bird song or trees. These activities are free, and yet can form some of the best memories with your children and family.
As social interaction slowly gets back to normal after the COVID lockdown, playing football, Frisbee or rounders within a family group or friendship bubble is a great way to have social interaction and learn new sports. And don’t forget, with the play parks now open, running around a park is a great way for children to get exercise. Take plenty of hand santiser with you to practice good hand hygiene.
When having fun, the effort never feels as tiring!
There really aren’t any rules when it comes to what exercise or activity to choose. Whilst being outside is great to connect with nature, get some fresh air and soak up some vitamin D, not everyone has a safe outdoor space to play in. Indoor spaces can still make a great place to exercise, there are a great range of indoor activities such as stretching, yoga, home based circuits and aerobics that can be accessed online. What about an indoor treasure hunt to keep little ones moving around?
Often children are so creative they will design their own games without the need for any equipment such as dancing, balancing and jumping, all of which can provide lots of fun, without the realisation it is ticking off their daily exercise requirements!
To help your child understand the internal effects of health, your child can place their hand over their chest to feel their heart beating immediately after they exercise and then feel it slowly return to a resting pace, when they relax.
Along with the visual benefits, exercise also helps the body internally; improving heart health, aiding mental health, helping to colonise the gut with ‘good’ bacteria that can reduce the risk of illnesses like type 2 diabetes, reduce stress….the list of benefits goes on!