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Sport and Health Unite LogoSport and Health Unite aims to enrich the lives of children and young people by providing families and organisations with sport and health solutions. Here their Director Dr Andy Williamson writes the first in a series of blogs.

There is growing public health concern over the effects that sedentary lifestyles are having on the health of children and young people. Current Government guidelines recommend that for general health, children and young people aged between 5–18 years should accumulate a total of at least 60 minutes of at least moderate intensity activity every day . This should include activities to improve bone health, muscle strength and flexibility at least twice a week. However, it is estimated that only 32% of boys and 24% of girls meet the government’s recommendations. Whether this obesity and inactivity is caused by the popularity of video games or the declining hours of physical education in schools, it is a wake-up call for everyone. Thankfully, there are ways of reversing this growing trend and helping our children to enjoy daily exercise and outdoor activities, which they love given the opportunity.

So why is exercise or physical activity important for my child? Increased physical activity has been associated with an increased life expectancy and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. It produces overall physical, psychological and social benefits. Inactive children are likely to become inactive adults. Physical activity helps with controlling weight, reducing blood pressure, raising HDL ("good") cholesterol, reducing the risk of diabetes and some kinds of cancer, and improved psychological well-being, including gaining more self-confidence and higher self-esteem.

And what are the benefits of my child being active for me as a parent? The most obvious are that of a more stable mood pattern, improved behaviour and increased self-esteem. It also results in tiredness which promotes a healthy sleep pattern and allows for a child to be more mentally alert for school and gives us parents some time to rest and recuperate as well.

So how do I promote physical activity in my child? It should be increased by reducing sedentary time (e.g., watching television, playing computer video games or talking on the phone). It should be fun for children and parents should be role models for active lifestyles. For children, exercise can mean playing as well as the more formalised physical activities, such as during PE at school, football practice or dance lessons. Kids Get Active with Parachute

But it’s not just about the physical side there are emotional benefits of exercise too! Research on anxiety and depression shows that exercise can help reduce anxiety and improve mood. Exercise releases those feel-good brain chemicals, neurotransmitters and endorphins, while at the same time reducing the immune system chemicals that can exacerbate depression. Moderate, fun-oriented exercise literally burns off excess harmful hormones and, at the same time, increases the release of beneficial ones.Physical activity increases body temperature, which may have a calming effect. Exercise enhances the brain’s metabolism. Studies show that active children have improved memory as a result of better brain function! Perhaps most importantly, physical activity develops children’s self-esteem and confidence. Their ability to overcome difficult situations improves and they simply enjoy a better, sunnier outlook on life.

Thirty to sixty minutes of exercise each day is enough to strengthen bones and muscles and prevent children from gaining too much weight. Parents can set a good example by being active themselves. Exercising together can be fun for everyone and be good family bonding time. Whilst competitive sports can help kids stay physically active, walking or biking to school, bowling, dancing and swimming are other good and fun ways for kids to get exercise.

0 Comments | Posted in Fitness By Katie
From our experience, getting kids involved in sport early on not only leads to the fitness and health benefits but also builds confidence. Don't take our word for it, read this article from the

Getting kids involved in sport at a young age can help with fitness and social skills, says Early Years Coach John McCallum. GETTING your children active now will stand them in good stead for later life. Kids should clock up an hour of activity five days a week. But dark, cold days make the lure of TV, DVDs and video games hard to ignore. Many parents overestimate how active their children actually are. One study, by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, suggested as few as three in every 100 are actually active for an hour every day. Significant numbers of kids are overweight and one in five children in Scotland could face health problems as adults unless families are encouraged to become more active. Regular exercise significantly reduces the chances of coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

"If we give kids a positive experience of activity when they are young, hopefully it will encourage them to take part in sport and be active as they grow," said John McCallum, the Early Years Coach at Active Stirling.

John has been teaching nursery kids as young as three activities based on rugby, basketball, dance and orienteering. He said: "It develops their social skills as they learn teamwork, sharing and taking turns. It also helps coordination, interaction, and language. You can tell the difference in the kids who've had the chance to develop active skills. They're more confident and better coordinated."
Schools are only required to offer children two hours of PE every week so the onus is on parents to ensure their kids get enough exercise after school, at weekends and during holidays.

0 Comments | Posted in News Fitness By Little Big Sports