What happens when young children are physically active?

As soon as I learnt to ride a bicycle, I went to school on my bicycle. My friends too went to school on bicycles. Every evening I spent hours with my colony friends running around the colony, climbing trees and jumping off the compound wall. Few evening in a week were spent playing badminton with dad and my sisters.

Today our children live in a different time. Technology has made life easier, faster and physically less active. In the morning when I go for my morning walk, I don’t see kids riding their bicycle to school, I see them waiting for school bus. In the evening, I see children gathered under my building playing games on their phones.

Due to these changes, in India we have seen a steady rise in life style related health problems such as type 2 diabetes, coronary heart diseases, hypertension etc. and this hardly is ground breaking news anymore. Most of the people I know, go to gym and know how lack of physical activity can adversely affect their physical well-being. Yet our children are becoming more and more sedentary. Is physical activity not important for our children?

Physical activity is essential during childhood and here what happens when children are physically active:

Physical Benefits:

  1. Strengthens heart. Heart is a muscle and just like any other muscle its performance improves if it is challenged by exercise.
  2. Keeps arteries and veins strong and healthy.
  3. Strengthens bones and supports bone development.
  4. Prevent lifestyle related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension etc.
  5. Helps learn new skills. Enhances balance and coordination.
  6. Strengthens respiratory system.
  7. Develops healthy sleeping and eating habits.

Social and Emotional Benefits:

  1. Build lifelong friendships.
  2. Learn to share, cooperate and wait for turn.
  3. Learn to negotiate with others.
  4. Develop confidence and resilience.
  5. Positive effect on overall emotional well-being.
  6. Add joy and happiness in the life.

Cognitive Benefits:

  1. Brain functions improve due to increased oxygen supply.
  2. Improves concentration and facilitates learning of new skills.
  3. Builds positive attitude towards exercise. Physically active children are more likely to continue exercise in later years.

According to WHO estimates, non-communicable diseases represent 43% of disease burden globally and this figure is expected to rise to be responsible for 60% of the disease burden and 73% of all deaths by 2020 (www.chroniccareindia.org). If we fail to address our children’s need and right to physical activity, these figures are going to get worse.

I am not against technology and social media. We must embrace gadgets and new ways of connecting with others but we must not let these changes consume our children. Children are vulnerable, they need adults to help them make informed choices. It is our responsibility to make sure that our children develop a positive attitude towards physical activity.

Yes, let them have their IPads and phones but also make sure that they ride bicycle, climb trees and run around the block with their friends.

Paras Mahendru

Founder

PreschoolGuru Education Consultancy