We all have a responsibility to make sure children are healthy, and encouraging participation in sport lies at the heart of this. PE lessons are great for getting children active, but this should be just the start of their opportunities to play. If we really want to reduce childhood obesity, we need to encourage children to be participating more in sport in all areas of their life.
Why Sport Is So Important
- Better physical health and development
Sport can benefit and strengthen all parts the body, particularly for growing children. Being active reduces body fat, which is why it’s on the agenda of the government’s obesity plan. Reducing child obesity helps to eliminate problems such as diabetes and can help build strong muscles and bones.
Plus, if children participate in sport from a young age, they are more likely to continue doing it throughout their lives. The enjoyment of sport and the positive feelings (more on that in a moment) created by the exercise they get as a result will often keep them coming back for more as an adult.
- Improves mental health and education
As well as contributing towards physical health, sport is known to help mental health, too. Just 15 minutes of high-intensity exercise (easily achievable through participating in sport) releases endorphins which make us feel great. Studies have also indicated a correlation between self-esteem and participation in sport, meaning children can have a more positive state of mind and approach to all aspects of their life is playing sports is a part of their routine.
Image credit: Flickr // govinslee.
There have also been links to children that participate in sport succeeding in academic work. Playing sport can improve brain function, which can lead to success in academia. There is also an indication that those who participate in sport are more likely to go onto higher education.
How to Get Children Excited about Participating in Sports
- Have a professional sports player come to school
Having role models is a great way to motivate kids. You don’t need a famous football player to come and talk to the students, but any local person who competes, or an ex-student, can be a relatable way for kids to want to play sports. If you are able to have coaches who have played professionally, this is a great advantage. Somebody who has real stories and has experienced the thrill of competing can be ideal to talk to and inspire the students.
- Show children that sports allows travelling opportunities
The Olympics, FIFA World Cup and Six Nations are a few examples of major global sporting events that can be attended and experienced as part of a travel package. These can show children how sport can open up opportunities to travel and learn about the world.
Image credit: Flickr // vickychou530.
Children don’t need to be international players to travel, either. Sports tours and tournaments allow children travel to Europe and beyond to play sport and explore a new country. Playing sports against another country, putting your skills to the test in a unique environment, is an unforgettable experience.
- Introduce kids to different kinds of sports
Some sports are much easier to organise and teach than others. For example, the resources needed to play football or netball are much less than the equipment for lacrosse or cycling. There is a sport for everybody. It’s important to show children a variety of sports so they can discover which one they enjoy.
Tell children about sports they may not have heard of before or never had a chance to participate in. Trampolining, fencing and snowboarding, for example, are not the sort of sports regularly publicised. But they’re all Olympic sports with the potential for top performers to make a career out of it, as well as being extremely physical activities. There are so many sports which may be less popular, but are still a great sport for children to get involved in.
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