Children, at their core, are naturally active, and the school year offers plenty of opportunities for them to hone their energy into productive activities such as physical education and sport. In fact, high-quality physical education is one of the best strategies available for reversing the present trend of unhealthy and overweight youngsters. What’s more, according to a CDC review in 2010, physical education could help to boost children’s mental capacity, as well as their physical fitness. The study showed that children classed as “physically fit” see higher success in school due to an increased blood flow and growth in the hippocampus.

With that in mind, it’s unfortunate to see that a study in 2013, showed that only 27.1% of students were engaging in the WHO-recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day. What’s more, only 29% of the surveyed children attended P.E classes on a daily basis.

Participating in, and Enjoying Physical Education

Physical education is a crucial and necessary part of any child’s growth, but it will often provide better results in children who regard exercise as less of a chore, and more of a fun opportunity. After all — if nothing else, children are much more likely to reject chances to engage in activities that they don’t enjoy.

As kids get older, the developing demands on their time and technological distractions that pervade the world today can make getting that important hour of exercise all the more challenging. Everything from spending too much time on the internet, to excess homework can be enough to reduce fitness levels in students. However, being active is crucial for school kids of all ages, as it strengthens their bones and muscles, and ensures that their bodies have the right capabilities for healthy growth.

Some children claim that they dislike sport — but it’s worth noting that there’s usually a reason for this. For instance, some kids simply need extra support to help them deal with their worries, whereas others need practice to help them overcome fitness areas where they consider their skills to be lacking. Through a positive exercise environment, and the use of encouragement, children can begin to associate exercise with good connotations — therefore reducing their desire to automatically reject any form of physical activity.

Helping your child to not only participate more regularly in physical education and sport — but enjoy the activities they do, will help them to develop healthy habits that stay with them throughout their adult lives. These habits will ensure that they remain active through life, and could even reduce their risk of developing chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes or osteoarthritis.

The Dangers of Connecting Exercise and Punishment

When it comes to keeping children in line, finding punishments and consequences that work can be a complicated process. More importantly however, parents must be aware of the negative effects that using exercise as punishment can have on their children. Punishments push children to learn that their bad behavior will lead to something negative. This means that if you attempt to punish children by having them run laps when they’re late to a class, or engage in pushups when they behave poorly, they will see exercise a negative thing. The long-term effect of these kinds of punishment is that they teach your child to hate exercise, and rebel against it wherever possible.

The aim should be to convince your child that exercise is a positive, enjoyable, and beneficial way to spend their time. Using it as a punishment will only undermine these connotations, or destroy them completely. On the other hand, however – while it’s crucial that exercise should not be used as a punishment, it also shouldn’t be something that is taken away from a child in order to teach them a lesson. For instance, many teachers (77%) prevent children from participating in recess in an attempt to diminish bad behavior. Though this may reinforce the concept of outdoor activity as something positive, it also reduces a child’s chances to take part in crucial activities, from social interaction, to physical fitness and relaxation.

Teach Kids to Enjoy Exercise

Physical Education, and any other activity designed to offer children exercise opportunities should help to encourage the adoption of healthy habits, and promote a more active lifestyle. The right approach to physical fitness, both at home, and at school, is important for increasing physical competence in children, improving health, and developing good habits for the future.

A quality physical education program should support these healthy habits. SPARK has actually been proven to increase student enjoyment of physical education programs.

How do you encourage physical fitness and activity in your child? Let us know in the comments!

SPARK is dedicated to creating, implementing, and evaluating research-based programs that promote lifelong wellness. SPARK strives to improve the health of children and adolescents by disseminating evidence-based physical activity and nutrition programs that provide curriculum, staff development, follow-up support, and equipment to teachers of Pre-K through 12th grade students. SPARK is committed to providing outstanding customer satisfaction through timely delivery and exceptional service. SPARK believes in fostering a positive working environment that values professional growth, upward mobility, and opportunities for people to work together toward common goals.