Learning beyond the four walls

The importance of physical education for children

Sports in schools

More than half of the population lacks the discipline to stay fit. This isn’t a figure we pulled out of thin air but a fact uncovered during a recent pan-India research. What’s more worrisome is that the participants included youngsters between 20 and 35 years of age! If this doesn’t call for re-evaluating the role of fitness education in our school curriculum, then nothing else will.

It’s not that the Indian education establishment is completely ignorant about the importance of fitness education. However, given the increased incidence of lifestyle-related diseases among children, isn’t it time we take a step back and question ourselves on whether what we are doing is enough?

Not too long ago, summer holidays for kids meant running around in parks and playgrounds. However, thanks to the digital revolution, today, most kids are far more likely to be found glued to their iPads, laptops or smartphones!

Old games like hide and seek have been replaced by video games like ‘Call of Duty’. This development stresses on the need to encourage children to take up physical activities beyond the routine games period in school.

What can a school do?

As stated earlier, schools do have an idea about the role they need to play in a student’s life. However, if one were to ask what more can a school do, the options are aplenty. For starters, schools should encourage the children to participate in a variety of sports. Early exposure to sports can help children identify and develop their talents for the right sport. Additionally, it can also help build their discipline and self-confidence. Having such traits can enable them to become better citizens.

The reason why sports remains a somewhat neglected field in most schools is due to the false assumption that sports hinders a child’s academic performance. In fact, it is just the opposite.

Various studies have found that children who are physically active are more likely to perform better in academics. Not just that, due to the physically demanding nature of most sports, children are much more likely to understand the value of physical fitness and thus, they are much more likely to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

But fitness is not just about physical strength, games like chess go a long way in improving the mental wellness of a child as well. In fact, the government should also step in and help the schools restructure curricula to ensure that sports and physical fitness receive their due share. Another novel way through which schools can encourage children to take up fitness is by involving parents in the process.

Parents' role

It is not just schools that play an important role in a child’s fitness education. As parents, it is our duty too, to help inculcate healthy habits in children. It could be as simple as going for walks, cycling or even attending dance classes with the children. While these activities have health benefits, they also strengthen the bonds. Other activities that can be encouraged include yoga and martial arts, both of which require immense discipline and go a long way in improving one’s focus.

Internet, video games and smartphones are here to stay! There’s no turning away from that fact. However, as parents, it is our duty to make sure that our children are getting the right amount of physical exercise despite all the distractions created by today’s digital world. With a huge population of young adults, India is all set to be the youngest country by 2020. Therefore, it is essential that children develop a healthy lifestyle.

(The author is with Gympik, Bengaluru)

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