Physical fitness for school success

Physical fitness for school success

Physical fitness is just as important for children as learning the letters and numbers. This realisation is not recent; 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, the question is: are the children doing enough physical activity? Youngsters today need a more active lifestyle to be really fit. Moreover, being physically healthy and pursuing sports actively builds confidence and fosters a positive attitude.

Before the advent of televised distractions, children were often found outside the house playing in parks and even in the streets. But what really reduced playtime drastically was the arrival of the Internet. Online games and social networks have turned out to be an addiction that younger generations have fallen prey to. Instead of going out to play with real friends, they are now keen to show off their prowess online, competing with virtual friends.

Make children active

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 beyond the routine games periods in school. So, how does one make physical activity attractive for children? To do this, we must help them develop an interest in sports, games and health early in life. Both parents and schools have a part to play in this. There are many things that schools can do to help students lead an active life from a young age.

Schools already have a system where physical exercise periods are held twice or thrice every week. 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. It does not need to be a physical sport only. They should be encouraged to try games like chess. They will automatically develop the habit of physical exercise on realising that a fit body is required for a fit mind.

The government, too, has a major role to play in promoting a culture of daily fitness in schools. More time needs to be dedicated for physical activities in schools, ideally about 30 minutes every day. Advising schools to restructure the curriculum to accommodate this time must be prioritised.

There should be equal focus on indoor sports too. With India doing well in international sports events like gymnastics, table tennis and badminton, schools should also be encouraged to have an indoor gym with basic equipment for various indoor sports. This will provide students with a wider choice of activities. Schools can involve parents in their sports programmes. Involving parents will motivate the students to participate with greater enthusiasm.

Beyond school

Building an active lifestyle is not a very difficult proposition. It is as simple as walking or cycling a short distance instead of driving. As a family, planning a daily walk of 30 to 60 minutes can be easily accomplished. As little as 30 minutes of physical activity in a day can increase concentration, focus and self-esteem. Other than physical activity periods in school and daily exercise at home, there are other activities that can serve the same purpose. Dance is an excellent form of exercise. The benefit that one can derive from an intensive dance class is in no less that derived from a brisk walk or jog.

Yoga, too, is of great benefit for someone who wants an activity but would rather avoid vigorous running or contact sports. Many schools already have a yoga hour for all students. Yoga improves concentration and calms down the agitated mind; hence, students can focus better on curricular pursuits. Martial arts are also known to benefit the people who practice it by increasing focus and building discipline.

In the age of Internet, the list of physical activities would be incomplete without mentioning ‘exergaming’. As Internet and video gaming have 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. Though playing games on the Internet or WiFi is not the ideal activity option, it is better than simply sitting idle while watching television or surfing the Internet.

Fitness needs to be a lifetime commitment. One who commits to it early prolongs wellness and suffers less later in life. However, it is never too late to begin and ensure good health for yourself. With a huge population of young people, a wholesome health initiative adopted by individuals and the government can result in a physically fitter India.

(The author is founder, Gympik, Bengaluru)

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