According to the ACSM guidelines, kids need 60 minutes of exercise a day . However, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, less than a quarter of children aged 5-14 meet this guideline . With the rise in technology and social media, kids are spending less and less time outdoors being physically active, directly correlating with the rise in obesity and metabolic disease in children. Recreational sport, outdoor games and fitness activities are great ways to create good exercise habits early to combat disease and illness later in life.
Sport is a great introduction to physical activity for children, however there is always a risk of injury. Younger children (5-12 years old) tend to sustain fractures mainly to the upper limb, whereas older children (13-17 years old), sustain more injuries to the chest, hips and spine and are more prone to overuse, and soft tissue injuries . As a parent it is important to strike a balance between letting your child get involved in sport and doing your best to protect them from injury.
Here are some things you can do as a parent to encourage your kids to get active, while preventing them from getting injured.
- Be a role model.Lifestyle habits (especially bad ones) are contagious. As parents, our kids observe and mimic us and our behaviours. There are links between parental physical activity , encouragement [5,6,7], involvement, interaction, support, and their children’s physical activity. In one study, parental support for physical activity increased the child’s likelihood of being highly active by 6.3 times .
- Talk to your kids about what activities they are interested in. Get your child to try different sports and fitness activities with other kids their age. You might not get it right the first time, but trying a whole range of activities can help your child decide what they like and find out what they’re good at.
- Apply for an Active Kids voucher. The NSW government’s Active Kids Program provides two yearly $100 vouchers for parents, guardians and carers of children enrolled in school to help pay for sport and active recreation. Visit the service NSW website for more info.
- Invest in the right equipment. A sturdy pair of running shoes, large water bottle and sunscreen are essentials for most physical activities. If your child is involved in a contact sport, you might need to buy protective equipment – mouth guards, shin guards, helmet, knee, and elbow pads. It’s not about wrapping your kids up in bubble-wrap, it is about giving them the best chance to be safe while active.
- Encourage warm-up activities.Warming-up before physical activity is crucial to preventing injuries, improving exercise and sport performance. It raises body temperature, and has metabolic, neural, and psychological effects which prime the muscles for activity . Warm-ups should be specific and related to the activity being undertaken. For example, soccer warm-ups could include running, dribbling, and passing the ball. In contrast, warming up for artistic gymnastics may involve movements and skills such as forward rolls, tuck jumps, cartwheels, and other related skills.
- Get your child stretching. Stretching helps to increase our joint range of motion, which allows us to move correctly and safely. Certain activities, such as gymnastics or dancing require greater flexibility in specific movements than other sports. In sports such as soccer or football, adequate hamstring length is required to kick and follow through the ball. For sports such as tennis, greater shoulder range of motion is required to perform skills such as the serve, as well as backhand and forehand shots.
- Practice! Practice! Practice!Whether it be attending training sessions or taking your child to the park or a recreational facility, regularly practicing the skills relevant to their sport of choice will help to improve your child’s sports performance and confidence.
- Provide your child with a balanced diet.Growing kids need adequate nutritional support to give them the energy to do physical activity. Parental dietary habits go a long way in influencing a child’s food behaviours and attitudes. This means eating well and providing quality, nutrient-rich foods, which allow your child to perform at their best.
- Encourage your child to drink enough water.Get your child a large water bottle to take with them when they exercise. Adequate hydration is important as the body loses water through sweat and respiration. Reminding your child to drink water regularly is important as their thirst response and thermoregulatory mechanisms are underdeveloped, leaving them more susceptible fluid loss, dehydration, and heat illness.
- Ensure your child gets enough rest.Getting your kid to sleep is easier said than done. Kids need more sleep than adults. According to the National Sleep Foundation, school aged children need 9-11 hours of sleep a night, compared with adults who require 7-9 hours . Sleep allows us to recharge and perform important physiological functions related to recovery. Also, taking ‘rest’ days in between sporting activities can be beneficial in preventing injuries related to overuse.
- If you suspect your child is injured – get help!If your child is limping, visibly in pain or screaming, trust your instincts. Don’t push the injury, it could make it worse. Get first aid and a medical opinion to ensure the correct treatment is provided and further damage is prevented.
Is your child getting muscle soreness and cramps during or after playing sport? Pack Abundant Natural Health’s Magnesium Spray in their sports bag! Quick and easy to use on the go, Magnesium has been shown to support muscle function, and relieve muscle cramping, aches, and pains.
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