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Exercise in the Garden

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 9 Feb 2013 | comments*Discuss
Kids Exercise Fitness For Kids Climbing

A generation ago, most kids got all the exercise they needed to stay healthy and strong. Today, though, many children fall short of the recommended hour or more of vigorous daily activity, and the resulting increase in childhood obesity is troubling for parents and health professionals alike.

Modern parents often juggle both family and career responsibilities and may feel overwhelmed at the idea of adding childhood sports or exercise classes to their already overfilled day-planners, but kids do need to move around in order to be healthy. Fortunately, kids can get all the exercise they need to develop strong, healthy bodies right in their own gardens.

Active Play for Little Ones

All parents know that it is better to install good habits in young children rather than trying to retrain a child who has developed less than stellar behaviours. This applies to all areas, from teaching good manners to establishing a love of exercise, so smart parents try to encourage their little ones to run, skip, jump, climb, and swim early on. Parents and other carers can begin with babies and toddlers, crawling and walking with them, moving to music, and romping in the soft grass. When they get bigger, playing games such as Tag, Ring-a-Ring o'Rosies, Duck-Duck-Goose, and Hide & Seek keeps kids up and moving about. Games of make believe, such as running with outstretched arms pretending to be birds or aeroplanes, can help kids to develop both their bodies and their imaginations.

Increasing Skill Level

As their coordination improves, parents can help their children to throw, catch, and kick a ball, run relay races, and maybe even set up challenging obstacle courses in their gardens. For those who have both the space and the means, erecting climbing frames or outdoor activity centres can make it easy and convenient for families to spend quality time together while improving their overall fitness. Manufacturers now produce a wide variety of playground style equipment for home use, with many features sure to rival those at the public parks. Rope walls, balance beams, tall slides, and elevated forts are just some of the possibilities, with others available to homeowners who wish to create fun activity centres right outside their own back doors. Especially fortunate children may even have a swimming pool available to them at home, allowing them the many benefits of water exercise.

The Benefits of Exercise

Physical activity benefits children (and the rest of us!) in many ways. Not only does regular exercise help kids to feel good physically, it has distinct emotional and social payoffs as well. Incidences of depression and anxiety disorders are lower in people who regularly work up a sweat, and while these issues were once thought of as only applicable to teens and adults, both anxiety and depression are now being seen in young children. Getting kids off the couch and outside in the garden, running and playing, can diminish the chances that they will suffer emotionally.

Activity is also good for children's social development. The sense of confidence that often comes with physical fitness carries over into other areas, making active kids more comfortable to interact with peers. Additionally, children who have mastered basic athletic skills while playing in the garden may be more inclined to join team sports than those kids who feel athletically inadequate.

Neighbourhood Fun

By nature, kids are typically active and social creatures. It is only in squelching their innate desire to run and play that they become less inclined to choose physical games. Parents have enormous influence on their children, especially when the kids are young and most impressionable, so it is important for parents to do all that they can to encourage their kids to romp and play. While it can be tempting for stressed parents to discourage the noisy and boisterous tendencies of their children, by doing so they risk their children's long term health. Instead, parents should not only play actively with their children, but should try organise networks of like-minded parents who may wish to take turns hosting neighbourhood play groups where children can get together to socialise and exercise. Making fitness fun is the surest way to make it a lifelong habit.

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