Physical fitness is just as important for children as learning the letters and numbers. This realisation is not of recent origin; most schools have a certain number of periods dedicated to physical activities. However, in the context of rising incidences of lifestyle-related diseases among children and adolescents, the question is, is this enough?
Before the advent of televised distractions, children were often found outside the house playing in parks and even on the streets. But what really reduced playtime drastically was the arrival and rapid spread of the Internet. Online games and social networks have turned out to be an addiction that the new generations have fallen prey to.
Childhood obesity, depression and diabetes in children have become far more common today than they were earlier. Doctors are advising parents to encourage children to engage in physical activities above and beyond the routine games periods in school.
There are many things that schools can do to help students lead an active lifestyle. Encouraging students to participate in a variety of sports activities can help them identify a sport that is right for them and suits their interest and ability. They should be encouraged to try games like chess as well, which may be a better choice for some students. They will automatically develop the habit of physical exercise on realising that a fit body is required for a fit mind. In fact, physically active students are healthier and have been found to be better in academics as well. They do not get sick and do not miss school as often as those who are less physically active. The government, too, has a major role in promoting a culture of daily fitness. More time needs to be dedicated to physical activities, and advising schools to restructure the curriculum to accommodate this time must be prioritised. Schools should also be encouraged to have an indoor gym with basic equipment for gymnastics, badminton and other indoor sports. Schools can involve parents in their sports programmes. Parents may volunteer to coach the school junior teams for some sports. Involving parents will motivate the students to participate with greater enthusiasm.
Physical activity beyond school
Building an active lifestyle is not a difficult proposition. It is as easy as walking or cycling a short distance instead of driving. As a family, planning a daily walk of thirty minutes to sixty minutes can be easily accomplished. As little as thirty minutes of physical activity a day can increase concentration, focus and self-esteem.
Dance, whether the classical or contemporary form, or Zumba, is an excellent form of exercise in addition to being an art form.
Yoga, too, is of great benefit for someone who wants activity but would rather avoid vigorous running or contact sports. Yoga improves concentration and calms down the agitated mind.
Martial arts are also known to benefit people by increasing focus and building discipline.
As Internet and video gaming has become extremely popular, the games, too, have evolved from purely sedentary ones to those where a degree of physical movement is required. They have come to be known as ‘exergaming’ and many people, both children and adults, enjoy playing these games. With a huge population of young people, a wholesome health initiative adopted by individuals and the government can result in a physically fitter India.