We know why taking part in sports and exercise is good for kids, right? It goes hand in hand with a balanced diet to maintain a healthy weight, fight off diseases and help the body function at capacity. But that’s not all. Research indicates that its benefits reach even further.
Many sports encourage competition, and there has been some debate over whether this is healthy for our children. It’s fair to say that too much competition can have some negative consequences. However, healthy competition has many benefits.
To begin, it brings a sense of achievement. Kids can work as part of a team to achieve an end goal. i.e. winning. When that it celebrated and rewarded by praise or physical rewards, such as trophies, etc. then that sense of accomplishment is heightened.
Competition also helps to push us a little bit further. When we strive for something and perform a little bit harder the results are surprising. Working hard, striving, and improvement are all good life lessons.
As in any game or life in general, we don’t always win. Losing is also good for kids. It helps them accept disappointment, learn from it, regroup and move on.
Aids Cognitive Functions
Exercise stimulates brain growth and improves cognitive function. This, in turn, helps them to focus and improves their concentration. So, sports and exercise supports the learning environment and makes it easier to perform in the classroom.
Many children in the UK report feeling stressed. It is estimated that 4% of children suffer from a mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety, and these statistics are increasing.
When fighting stress, physical exercise is one of the many tools recommended by medical professionals. As we embark on physical activity, the brain releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins. These chemicals provide us with a natural high which can last for up to a couple of hours.
Another benefit that exercise brings is that it is a diversion. Similar to mindfulness, it helps focus the mind on the activity at hand, rather than dwelling on worries. This provides some respite from everyday stresses and strains.
In terms of physical health, a healthy body is far more likely to process and cope with stressors, than one that is depleted. Further, good health promotes good sleep, another weapon in our fight against illness and stress.
Exposes Them To The Outdoors
Not all, but many sports are undertaken outside. If your kids are addicted to their computer games, anything that will tempt them off the couch is a good thing. Being in the fresh air increases intake of vitamin D and there are some indications that it can reduce depression and hyperactivity. Surprisingly it also has a positive effect on eyesight. Research undertaken a few years ago indicated that children with shortsightedness spend less time out of doors than children with normal vision.
When we exercise it increases the production of cells in the hippocampus area of the brain. This is the part that is responsible for memory and learning. Therefore, stimulating this area has a positive effect on information retention. This is true for both children and adults.
A good workout or a vigorous session of playing a sport has been shown to boost creativity levels for up to two hours. This is further enhanced by being out of doors. It refreshes the body and mind and leaves it open for learning and creative pursuits.
As we know from personal experience, school can be a tricky place for kids. Other children can be cruel and sometimes finding their identity and their own place in the world is challenging. Playing a sport or taking part in physical activities can help boost a child’s self-confidence. There are many reasons for this. On a basic level, the endorphins released provide that feeling of a natural high. But it goes much further than this. Feeling healthy, achieving, striving and overcoming barriers also help to improve feelings of self-worth.
Again, this is something that is backed up by research and applies to adults as well as children. Evidence suggests that people who work out tend to be more productive. We know that taking regular breaks when we’re revising has a positive effect. It helps the brain to recharge and refresh. When this is combined with exercise, which supercharges our cognitive functions, the effect is enhanced.
It’s not surprising that sports and exercise are good for our kids. This is something that is regularly drummed into us. But as well as the physical benefits there are many unexpected outcomes. Use these arguments the next time your kid is begging for a note to be excused from PE.