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Getting physical

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With the cooler weather here to enjoy and summer season behind us, many people take the opportunity to get outdoors and make the most of it. Children and adults are seen out on Fujairah Corniche and in the parks- sports and physical activities are fantastic things to encourage for social, physical and mental development.


You may never have had an issue getting any of your children to play sports, but with the amount of schoolwork and presence of technology in our lives, it can feel as though it’s a struggle. 


In a study carried out by UAE University of over 15,000 students from 30 nationalities, 40% of children were overweight, 24.4% were ‘obese’ and 5.7 were ‘morbidly obese’. In addition to a number of serious health problems, childhood obesity can result in serious psychological problems if left, such as anxiety and poor self-esteem.


Let’s move!


Encouraging more physical activity amongst children is seen as one of the key tools in the fight against obesity; this is not simply due to physically burning energy, but sparking a desire to improve whilst doing a fun and engaging activity. This is also due to the fact that, like adults, children eat out of boredom- the more occupied children are, the better. At least one hour of physical activity per day is said to improve health and show improvements in wellbeing.


Active children (along with a healthy balanced diet) are more likely to manage stress better, control their weight, build stronger healthier bones, sleep better, and decrease the risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure later in life. They generally have better co-ordination, self-esteem, self-discipline and social skills.


People will blame technology for the rise in obesity, however there is a combination of factors. That being said, it is important to limit time doing sedentary activities such as watching television and playing computer games. 


This is done different ways but setting an example is important; if you are partial to spending hours in front of the television, it’s likely you’re modeling that behavior to your kids. You may have to be the bad guy in this instance and you may find it challenging, but it won’t be long before your family find things they’d rather be doing. Children are very resourceful when they need to be.


Toddlers and preschoolers should play actively several times a day- breaking the habit of putting them in front of a television can be hard for busy parents. Children 6-17 years should do at least an hour of free play at home, active time at school, and participation in classes or organized sports. 


If you have older children or teenagers that aren’t particularly motivated by organized sports, try encouraging alternatives such as dance, fitness classes, biking. While they have more commitments to manage, overloading children with after-school activities might discourage them from doing things.


Athletic personality


Most humans have ‘athletic personalities’ anyway, you may notice this about yourself: there’s non-athletes, casual athletes and Athletes. You may have loved football and been ready to practice and play 24/7. Your child might not be so enthusiastic. You may have struggled playing sports through school, where your child hasn’t had the chance to find an activity they truly love. No matter what personalities we have, there are activities to suit every type- and everyone benefits from being active.


For non-athletes, there may be a number of reasons. They may not enjoy the pace of most activities, too many people, or too much competitive energy. Swimming, martial arts, gymnastics, dance, yoga, ice-skating, even walking might peak your child’s interest. They might have a keen interest in nature- find a way to incorporate a walk outdoors (in the mountains or on the beach) into your day. They might be shy or introverted, in which case look for yoga classes, which encourage introspection. Classes are becoming more available for children of all age groups. People will hyperactive children are also finding yoga to be a calming and focusing activity for the child.


Try not to throw them into hyper-competitive environments as it could knock down their confidence; a non-athletic child thrown into football try-outs could end up feeling resentful and not want to do anything. Try to encourage different activities to the best of your ability. Be supportive: try things with them if need be. School is not always able to help them branch out to try new things simply for having so many kids to deal with- you also have a responsibility as a parent to encourage new activities.


For the casual athletes, it may just be a case of making it possible for them to be active. You might not have time to take them to activities, or the opportunities in this region may not be present. You might not have the finances to take them to dance classes, or golf lessons- with patience, research and reaching out to other parents in your community you may find more things to hand than you realize. The extra work to organize will be worth it in the end.


If you’ve got athletic children, maybe encourage them to encourage others. Sportsmanship is one of the biggest benefits of a child involved in sports, Make sure your child knows not everyone is like them, and that people need patience and encouraging as well as healthy competition. One child may be a bookworm, and the other a basketball star- try to help them help each other find the balance.


And at the end of it all, you may be surprised by how much kids actually enjoy doing physical activity with their parents. You don’t need fancy equipment or classes; most things you can work out together.


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