There are so many great activities for children – but can it be too much of a good thing?
Everyone between the ages of 6 and 17 ought to be physically active for at least 60 minutes a day. Ideally, it should be condition-improving activity, but improving muscle and bone strength ought to be included three times a week. Anyone that cannot get up to the recommended levels because of sickness or disability ought to be as active their condition allows. Those are the general recommendations on physical activity for children and adolescents from the YFA (Swedish Professional Associations for Physical Activity), and that have been approved by the Swedish Society of Medicine. Research also clearly shows the major benefits to be achieved through physical activity for body and soul in children:
* Most organs and tissue in the body are affected by and adapt to regular physical activity and training.
* Movement is the source of motoric development in children.
* A single training session can have a positive effect on mood, awareness, blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
* Regular physical activity and training improve quality of life, recall, mood, condition and strength and reduce the risk of many diseases and of premature death.
* There is considerable evidence that children and adolescents introduced to a healthy lifestyle early on will retain it into their adult lives.
According to the research behind the recommendations, the benefits to health of physical activity are much higher than possible risks. But in common with adults – to achieve the positive effects, avoid injury and over-training, time for recovery is needed. Rest days, sleep, mental recuperation, sufficient nutrition and energy intake. Actual needs depend, as always, on the individual, especially for children in various stages of growth.
Children also have completely different movement patterns to adults, making it hard to measure their activity. They can be active at a high level of intensity, at rest and then active again all within a single minute. Neither do children regard physical activity in the same way as adults, which makes it almost impossible to reliable answers from children on how physically active they are. Simply measuring how often children take part in sport or have physical exercise in school gives a very narrow profile of their total activity.
Children and adolescents who are physically active at measurable or high intensity levels at least three times a week can show superior mental health and self-confidence, less body fat, lower blood pressure and blood fat and higher sensitivity to the blood’s own glucose-impairing hormone, insulin. Neither have scientists been able to find any negative effects on the academic performance of schoolchildren in studies involving taking time from classroom studies and switching it to physical activity.
Is too much possible?
Yes, but not as long as the child decides! Children do not regard it as ‘training’ in the same way as adults. They move for as long as they have energy and think it’s fun, not because they feel they ‘should do’, and because someone is pressing them. I do not believe that parents or teachers should push children into training too much – or encourage children to train to be ‘the best’. The joy of movement and love of sport must always be the most important factor, because the objective should be to keep the habit for life. A simple way to encourage movement in the home is to hang up an Abilica SlingTrainer. You will quickly realise that you cannot resist hanging and swinging, which is not only enjoyable, but also strengthens the body in several ways.