With all the excitement around the Olympics this summer, the importance of staying physically active is certainly on our minds! Whether you have a competitive student athlete at home or you’re trying to teach your child the importance of having a balanced life, we wanted to share with you some ideas on how to stay active and have fun doing it. But first, let’s talk about some of the benefits!
It makes you feel good, and it’s good for you! According to the CDC, “benefits of exercise include improved thinking or cognition for children 6 to 13 years of age! Regular physical activity can help keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp as you grow. It can also reduce the risk of depression and anxiety and help you sleep better.” Exercise can improve your child’s attention, boost his/her mood, and improve memory, all of which contribute to better grades.
Strengthens bones, muscles, joints, and coordination! As young children grow, they develop different motor skills that help them move and play. When it comes to these skills, which are very important for their physical and mental development, it’s all about practice and repetition. As children grow into adolescents, the same rules apply. Their bodies go through rapid change, and physical activity can help them adjust to these changes as they come.
It’s something the whole family can do together! Though it’s considered an interactive and socially engaging space, a Cigna study found that excessive social media use is one of the biggest causes of loneliness. Being physically present with loved ones creates strong emotional bonds that support you through life’s challenges, and families can encourage each other to maintain a healthy lifestyle. There’s also evidence that time with family can boost the effects of exercise and other healthy habits.
It teaches teamwork and leadership skills! Participating in team sports with peers is still very important, but learning about teamwork and leadership can certainly start at home. Family time teaches interpersonal communication skills including healthy, constructive ways to discuss, debate, and solve problems. When playing games or sports together, challenges arise naturally and offer opportunities to practice these skills in a safe and loving environment.
Boosts confidence and energy! It’s a common misconception that exercise only reduces your energy. While you can of course become fatigued from a lot of physical activity, studies show that people who exercise regularly experience higher levels of energy in their day-to-day lives. When you have more energy, better coordination, and you feel good, you can’t help but feel more confident.
As we mentioned, it’s highly beneficial to stay active as a family but we know that it can be hard to stay motivated and even harder to motivate your kids (read: teenagers). Here are some tips on how to stay motivated as a family.
Make sure you have good motives! Working out shouldn’t be about punishing yourself for eating certain foods or only about changing the way you look - in fact, most people find that only exercising for superficial reasons is not very sustainable. Instead, try to make exercising about staying healthy, growing strong muscles, improving coordination, challenging yourself, building healthy habits, having fun, and being together as a family. Teaching your kids to include exercise in their daily routine, and to do it for the right reasons, is something that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
Do the activities that make you happy! Not all exercise looks the same, but all of it is beneficial. As long as you’re moving your body in a way that feels good and gets your heart pumping, you’re doing it right. There are SO MANY WAYS to move, so take the time to find the ways that are fun for you and your family. Turn up the music and have a dance party, go out in the yard and throw a baseball, go on a run around your neighborhood – whatever it is that makes you happy, do it.
Mix it up! There are conflicting opinions about whether or not teenagers should specialize in one sport, but most research agrees that children under the age of 12 should diversify. Whether or not your child chooses to specialize when they’re older, there are many benefits to incorporating a variety of exercises into their routine (and yours). Participating in multiple sports allows athletes to develop different neuromuscular patterns and increase their adaptive skills. Moving and falling differently when playing a variety of sports can prevent injury in your chosen sport. There’s also mounting evidence showing that kids who specialize too early often drop out of sports altogether due to burnout. To make sure your whole body is healthy and happy, incorporate different exercises and make sure you stretch.
Set an example! Whether they admit it or not, your kids look up to you and often want to follow in your footsteps – imitation is, after all, the highest form of flattery! By exercising regularly and talking about all the ways it benefits you, your kids will naturally internalize the understanding that exercise is important and fun. Set an example for them first, and they might be more willing to jump in and join you!
Here are some fun ways to stay active this summer (or whenever), separated by age groups. Of course children develop at different speeds, so try some different activities to find out what works best for your family:
Activities for 4-5 year olds (preschool):
Kick a ball back and forth or into a goal
Red light, green light (bonus tip: ask them to walk backwards to the starting line if they get caught moving)
Sharks and minnows
Simon says (bonus tip: try to incorporate some unilateral movement like standing on one leg)
Duck Duck Goose
Follow the Leader
Freeze dance or freeze tag
Treasure hunt (outside or around the house, make it timed so they keep moving)
Set up an obstacle course with chairs, boxes, and toys for the kids to go over, under, through, and around
Hide and go seek
Activities for 6-12 year olds (Elementary School):
Most of the physical activity should be aerobic, where kids use large muscles and continue for a period of time, like running, swimming, and dancing
Muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening physical activity should be included at least 3 days a week – gardening, building forts (have to pick up items), ball sports, etc.
Skateboarding or rollerblading
Allow enough time for free play, with other kids or with parents
Introduction to organized sports
Hide and go seek
Activities 13-18 year olds (adolescents):
Most of the physical activity should be aerobic
Strength training, with the supervision of a qualified adult
Activities for the whole family:
We hope you enjoy some fun activities together this summer, and we look forward to seeing our BHS students in the fall. We’re so lucky to have plenty of playground spaces, multi-purpose sport courts, expansive sports fields, and a swimming pool that help our students get the most out of their physical exercise outdoors! Our teachers do an excellent job making sure students get plenty of opportunities to move their bodies throughout the day, from PE to “movement breaks” during class.