How are sports responsible for the holistic development of a child?

What do we understand when we hear the word sports?

As an adult, we relate sports with fitness, weight loss, or mere bonding time with friends/family. Looking back in time, the p.e period (physical education) was the most awaited one as a child. This stands true even for kids these days. The evening visit to the park is the most exciting part of their day. They run downstairs to meet their friends, and play games or ride their bicycles together. Many schools nowadays arrange yoga, athletic training for children apart from sports. These physical activity sessions are undoubtedly important for children’s physical as well as mental health.

Physical and mental development plays a dominant role in the growing years of a child. From being dependent on parents or care-takers, children step into adulthood with independence. The capabilities to take care of their day to day activities is important for their well-being.

Along with social, emotional, mental areas of development. Physical strength allows the individual to conveniently take up tasks.

Physical fitness concerns, an individual’s abilities to conquer both performance and health. Health related fitness deals with muscle strength, cardiorespiratory health, flexibility, endurance and stamina. Whereas performance related fitness deals with coordination and reaction time, motor skills, speed and balance.

These abilities holistically support people from different walks of life. Not only an athlete is benefited with good health, but also a corporate worker becomes sturdy to deal with pressure and stress.

ICMR- Indian council of medical research suggests,

1. At least an average of 60 minutes per day of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity, across the week; most of this physical activity should be aerobic.

2. Vigorous-intensity aerobic activities, as well as those that strengthen muscle and bone should be incorporated at least 3 days a week.

Why are sports important for kids?

The age group of 5-8 years old, requires skills to strengthen their cognition, and develop motor skills through fundamental movement education. In the age group of 8-12, the goal through physical activity and sports is to imbibe several life skills and concepts. When physical activity is structured, repetitive and planned it is called Exercise. While to gain the benefits of exercises it doesn’t need to be monotonous, routined or consciously strenuous. It is already difficult to make children do a planned task, they would rather indulge into something more fun and easy going. That is where sports come into picture. Physical activity with rules, competing and a lot of fun elements, allows children to effortlessly exercise.

Why should children take up sports? 

Affixed on the values of teamwork, unity, responsibility, integrity, resilience, and care. Cricket, football, basketball, etc teach a lot more than just the game. Positive habits inculcated at this age go a long way. Progressively reaching their teenage years, children tend to catch up better with the physical and mental transitions occurring.

How do sports help children’s health?

  1. Physical health benefits-

Muscle, fat, and bone mass, appropriate body composition is needed for taking diseases, metabolic illnesses off the list.

Physical fitness also ensures to deal with growing obesity and weight issues. Correction of body composition through physical fitness avoids regional obesity in the future.

Obesity in general, is linked with several rising deadly diseases. Cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, diabetes, hormonal imbalances all of these are related to weight issues.

Overall, physical fitness helps in cardiovascular development (heart health), Cardiorespiratory health (lung capacity).

Improved lung health pumps up oxygen utilization and transport.

Calcium uptake flourishes and helps in bone growth and development.

Fine motor and gross motor skills develop due to challenging activities.

  1. Skill-based and social benefits-

Routine practice through exercises develops speed, agility (rapidly changing direction) and reaction time. Sports help improve coordination, and balance

Further, interpersonal development of an individual evolves through sports. Team work, focus, and discipline develops while belonging to a group and working towards a goal.

  1. Mental health benefits-

Do sports help with kids’ mental health? Undoubtedly yes!

Wards off unwanted anxiety and boredom.

Concentration improves due to focusing better on the sport and competing at the same time. This helps in bettering cognition and building decision-making.

Neuromuscular reflexes develop through speed in the game.

Improved sleep after a productive day, provides rest and rejuvenation for the next day.

Guidelines to keep in mind.

  1. Hydration status– during exercises there is a loss of water and electrolytes which can lead to dehydration. In a worst-case scenario, severe dehydration can lead to death.

Recipes like Coriander whey soup are both hydrating and protein rich.

  1. Warm-up stretching for 5-10 minutes before a high-intensity physical exercise is integral in injury prevention.
  2. Precautionary care– types of equipment, proper nutrition, rest, and sleep should be a priority to avoid injuries.
  3. Check for BMI, weight status, health conditions– children with a medical history, low body weight, or any other risks need proper supervision during exercises.
  4. Cool-down should be done by aerobic exercises or stretching major joints. This helps in relaxing the muscles, normalizing blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature.

Role of parents in sports?

Facilitate interest and focus on Child’s interest- Respect your child’s interest, don’t categorize a sport specifically for boys or girls.

Provide support – Provide nutritional care throughout, as your child is now involved in sports, energy and nutrient needs increase. Feed them an appropriate diet to avoid poor stamina, poor performance in the child.

Create a conducive environment – do not pressurize the child, instead motivate and encourage them towards sports. Remember the importance of sports, and remove the exclusive focus on academics.

How to get kids interested in sports?

Be a role model- it is equally important for adults to exercise at least 4 times a week. Along with encouraging your child, be a role model. As kids tend to look up to their parents, teachers, and sports coach for motivation to do better.

Provide them opportunities to scale their abilities. This helps them to improve better.

How do you motivate children to participate?

It is a moment of pride when a player wins a medal for the nation. We should encourage and not belittle the dreams of children to reach any platform. Along with practice, a child learns life skills through winning, losing, and standing up after every fall. Sports teach children to analyze, and reason every situation and chance.

It’s high time we realize that a child’s growth and development is to be holistic and not just academic.

Offering positive affirmation after every time they achieve something acts as a reward to the child.

With the increase in the opportunities for a career in various games. Parents have started considering professional sports training for their children. There are children practicing for 2-3 hours a day to prepare for upcoming competitions. Care and energy requirements increase exponentially. Along with increased energy needs, protein, fats and other micronutrients become essential.

Several minerals and vitamins such as vitamin D, Calcium become crucial for bone health.

Focusing on energy-dense foods for preventing muscle loss, weakness and to develop stamina.

A pre-practice snack should be a punch of energy like a banana or a veggie bread roll

A post-practice snack should be protein-dense along with good fats. Eggs topped with turmeric and pepper, besan ka cheela, curd with some chopped nuts can be eaten.

Look for recipes like Healthy Methi Dosa

Include fiber in main meals just like any other reference child. Avoid fiber-rich foods before exercising as they need instant energy fuel for the game.

Remember to consult a qualified sports nutritionist for a personalized diet plan for your child.

Q-tip for all the kids.

Hit all the sixes and fours with good health,

And be prepared to smash the obstacles in the coming adulthood!

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