Regular exercise is good for all of us. While we know that we should be engaged in physical activity most days, it can be hard to manage with a hectic lifestyle. This goes for children too who are often juggling school life, socialising with friends and learning an awful lot on a daily basis. But leading an active life is as important, as academic study.
Why it is important for children to exercise
Most children have daily access to an electronic device, whether it is a smartphone, television, tablet or laptop. This means they can spend hours sat down looking at a screen instead of playing – particularly in the evenings and school holidays.
This means that on average fewer children are undergoing the recommended amount of physical exercise to ensure healthy development. Moving about and raising our heart rate through sports should be a part of everyone’s daily life, none more so than for growing children. The benefits of exercise for children include physical, emotional and social development.
The physical and health benefits which come from sport and exercise are really important for children as they go through significant development stages. Simply activities like playing with friends and running around the garden all help to strengthen children’s heart muscles, improve their lung capacity and increase their bone density. The earlier a child has an active lifestyle, the less likely they are to suffer from various illnesses in adulthood. Children also learn how to prepare for exercise correctly, learning how to stretch, warm up and cool down, helping to prevent injuries.
Not only does regular exercise have significant physical benefits for children, it can also improve mood and keep them happier. Fun-based activity helps to burn off excess harmful hormones that may be caused by stress or things that are worrying kids. It also releases positive hormones called endorphins that contribute to kids feeling happier, more motivated and more optimistic overall.
Leading an active lifestyle has positive effects on children’s ability to concentrate. Active kids have been proven to concentrate much better and for longer, allowing them to focus and achieve more whilst at school. This is because exercise enhances the brain’s metabolism, helping to improve brain function and memory. As children are often taking in a lot of new information every day, regular exercise helps them to learn.
Physical activity not only helps children get into shape, but it also improves their posture, balance and coordination – skills that are all being developed from an early age which adults take for granted. Participating in sports is a fun and easy way for children to combine exercise with socialising. Sports both inside and outside of school introduces children to and encourages them to interact with new and different people, increasing their opportunities to make new friends. Team sports, in particular, are a great means of fostering communication and teamwork skills as well as high camaraderie and team morale!
Competitive sports also give children the chance to learn how to manage the emotions that come with winning or losing. Enjoying the feeling of winning but celebrate ‘gracefully’ and sensitively and learning how to maturely manage the disappointment of losing, are fantastic social skills and help prevent children from setting unrealistic goals for themselves. Learning that, ‘you win some and you lose some’, as well as how to learn from the losses, are important life lessons for every child to learn.
Beyond improving children’s health in the short-term, being active from a young age also sets children in good stead to become healthier adults. This is because our bones retain a ‘memory’ of our fitness before we hit puberty that lasts long after the exercise has stopped. This means that we can continue to reap the rewards of an active childhood, even if we lead relatively sedentary lifestyles in adulthood. Regular exercise, especially before puberty, is vital for children’s growth and development.
How much exercise should children do?
Each child is different, and the amount and type of exercise that kids should be undertaking depend on their age and them as an individual. As a rough guide, preschool children should be getting around 120 minutes a day of active play – led by parents or teachers, or active free play as opposed to structured sport activities. This time can be broken up into several sessions. For older children and teenagers, they should be doing at least 60 minutes a day of physical activity. This can include moderate activities such as playing in the playground or cycling to more vigorous activities like playing intense sports.
Importance of physical education in school
Exercise is fundamental to a child’s physical and psychological development, but why is physical education (PE) important for children more generally?
An extensive PE curriculum allows pupils to try out a variety of different sports and activities that they might otherwise not have access to. Whether trying out a new sport or use equipment that they do not have at home, PE offers pupils different opportunities to find out what they enjoy. This helps children learn about themselves and what they love to do, as well as making sure that all children are participating in some form of physical activity each week. PE is also important to teach children a range of skills related to future professional roles. This could be taking on a role such as a team captain, coach, referee, attacker or defender.
Cranmore School prioritises sport in our day-to-day timetable and as extracurricular activities. Opportunities to take part in sport include weekly all year group fixtures from U9s to U13s for rugby, football, cricket, hockey and netball as well as quality coaching in more minority sports such as skiing, rowing and swimming. Outside of the curriculum, Cranmore pupils have access to professional coaching in golf, judo, archery, gymnastics, ballet, fencing, dance, orienteering and cross country.