The Covid-19 pandemic made children stuck at home with less physical activity or outdoor play and only online classes and games to indulge in. Lack of physical activity has led to an increase in obesity among children and this may affect the children’s health drastically unless we act soon.
A study published in the journal, ‘Journal of Clinical Medicine’ showed that the higher the level of children’s physical fitness, the better they can concentrate and the higher their health-related quality of life. Researchers were of the opinion that primary school pupils with good physical fitness and a good ability to concentrate are more likely to make it to secondary grammar schools hence, it’s all the most important to encourage motor development in children at an early stage since this can also have a positive impact on the development of mental fitness.
However, every parent is concerned about when their children should start exercising as they aren’t sure about at what age their kid should engage in team sports or lift weights. Doctors and medical experts recommend that it is safe for kids aged 6 and older to get at least an hour a day of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity whereas, lifting weights should be allowed once skeletal maturity is near and growth spurt has happened.
Although it is never late to encourage physical activity among kids, Dr Shubhang Aggarwal, Director and Orthopedic and Robotic Joint Replacement Surgeon at Jalandhar’s NHS Hospital, listed the following broad age related guidance, in an interview with HT Lifestyle, for explaining the nature and intensity of training or sports a child should do.
Ages 3 to 5
In this age group, the bones of children are still growing, so it is necessary to keep them at a healthy weight. This can be done by keeping them physically active throughout the day. Kids in the 3-5 age bracket can do running, learn cycling with side supports and use jungle gyms or soccer. However, they should be encouraged to play and not compete.
The reason is that children in this age aren’t coordinated enough to hit a pitched ball or have true ball-handling skills. Another way to keep your child active is swimming. It is fine to introduce your child to swimming between 6 months and 3 years old under the supervision of a trained coach or parent who swims. After initial training, children are ready to learn special strokes.
By this age, children have developed enough to do gymnastics and confidentially ride a bicycle. This is a good time to introduce a child to athletic and fitness-related activities that require body balance and motion control and sports like tennis/badminton/basketball/soccer. However, they should be taught about proper warm up and wear protective equipment.
It is fine to encourage competition at this age. Children have developed hand-eye coordination at this point and are usually able to hit a ball with a bat accurately or make solid contact with a tennis ball. Apart from that, children at this age can be introduced to distance running or short triathlons. It is important that they have trained physically and mentally for these events and maintain healthy hydration.
Children may be more oriented towards strength or muscle-building by this age but discourage lifting weights. Instead, they must be encouraged to do body-weight exercises like push-ups and squats that do not need any equipment. This way, children can develop strength while keeping bones and joints safe from any injury.
Age 15 and above
Once your teenage children have gone through puberty, they are ready to lift weights but they should be urged to take a weight-training class or a few sessions from an expert. Along with the training, it is important to keep an eye on their nutrition and hydration. If you see any signs or injury or fatigue, ask your child to stop immediately and consult a doctor.
Dr Shubhang Aggarwal insisted, “Exercise and physical activity from a young age keeps kids active throughout their life, improving their overall quality of life. Staying fit also helps kids build self-esteem, prevent obesity, and decrease the risk of serious illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, later in life. As a parent, you should let children pick their own sport and encourage them to explore other sports or forms of physical activity as well.”