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Swapping tablets for trainers

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The Aspen Institute Project Play

In this age of technology, more often than not we would find children of all ages with their head buried in gadgets – be it smartphones, tablets, or even laptops. Everyday there is always a new video to watch or new music to listen to.

The digital generation is slowly redefining things. ‘Games’, to them, no longer means physical activities but multitudes of smart applications on their devices and instead of being outdoor, they find the most entertainment in the virtual universe.

If anything, this would likely prompt the youths to lead a sedentary lifestyle when they grow older, which would not work in favour of their own health.

While technological advances are inevitable, it is still remarkably important to encourage children to become more active from a young age.

Why should my children swap tablets for trainers?

Honestly, why shouldn’t they?

If we go down the scientific route, we will learn that our body releases endorphins when we perform physical activities, which then interact with the brain receptors. It will subsequently trigger a positive feeling and reduce the body’s pain perception.

This is why some people turn to workouts to relieve their stress…because it works!

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the appropriate practice of physical activities would help the younger ones to:

Develop healthy musculoskeletal tissues such as bones, muscles and joints

Develop a healthy cardiovascular system involving heart and lungs

Develop neuromuscular awareness that could affect body coordination and movement control

Maintain a healthy body weight

In the long run, it also has positive benefits on the children’s mental wellbeing.

Participating in exercises can assist in the children’s social development because they would get the opportunity to express themselves, build self-confidence and develop social integration skills.

“It has also been suggested that physically active young people more readily adopt other healthy behaviours, such as the avoidance of tobacco, alcohol and drug use, and demonstrate higher academic performance at school,” the WHO reported.

More playtime equals better sleep

Every hour of inactivity will add three more minutes to the time it takes for children to fall asleep, a journal Archives of Disease in Childhood reported, emphasising the importance of physical activity for sleep.
The study pointed out the links between poor sleeping patterns in children and inferior school performance. Why? Because children have better attention span when they get sound sleep.
They will be alert, more receptive to and interactive with their surroundings which will help with the process of learning.

Have fun while you’re at it!

Physical activities do not always have to be strenuous and boring. With the right mindset and the right group of people, the children will likely have the most fun while taking care of their general well-being.
With so many options to pick from, here are some of our suggestions that may motivate more to embrace physical activities without discounting the fun factor:

1) Playing soccer (or sports, in general)

Soccer is great because it involves walking, running and sprinting. The movements from one match, when combined, can increase one’s aerobic capacity and improves overall cardiovascular health. Aside from lowering body fat and sculpting muscles, it helps build strength, flexibility and endurance.

AIA as the Global Principal Partner of Tottenham Hotspur (“Spurs”) has organised various football training sessions for kids in Cambodia, the latest of which was during the previous week. More than 300 children had the best time playing and learning about football from Spurs coaches from England. Look out for more of such sessions for your kids on AIA Cambodia’s Facebook page.

2) Jumping

It may sound silly but sometimes all you need to do combine fun and fitness by jumping. For children especially, a simple act of jumping will help improve their coordination because both sides of the brain and body will work to maintain balance. Jumping also involves all major muscle groups in the body, so it will help strengthening the body’s core.

3) Extracurricular activities

Possibly the easiest way to break some sweat is by participating in the school’s weekly sports lesson. Most local schools offer fun activities such as lawn bowls, aerobics, jumping jacks and skipping. The best part is the children will not dread it as much because they would be doing it together with their peers!

4) Interactive games

If good old-fashioned workouts are not the best idea for your children, you can still get moderate exercises by having them play interactive video games that encourage movements such as Wii Fit and Xbox 360 fitness games. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine said it can bolster energy expenditure by four to eight times compared to, say, sitting on the couch watching television.

How much exercise should children get?

1) For children under the age of 5, they are generally not advised to stay inactive for too long unless while sleeping. Activities should range from standing, walking around to jumping on a trampoline.

2) For those between ages 5 to 18, maintaining a basic level of health includes reducing the amount of time spent sitting and incorporate at least 60 minutes of light workouts everyday. If this is not possible, dedicate three days a week for a more ‘advanced’ routine such as swimming or martial arts.

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