Let’s Get Moving! Why Physical Activity is a Very Big Deal
Our bodies were meant to move.
Marci Williams feels passionately about this statement, and it is her mission to help kids–particularly kids who aren’t necessarily athletes–appreciate exercise and learn how to be physically active for life. In fact, this mom of three kids went back to school to earn her master’s degree in physical education for this very reason. While she has consistently led and encouraged her own family in physical activity and has also been a yoga instructor for many years, Marci is now continuing her mission through teaching yoga and lifetime sports at a public high school in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
So what’s the big deal about kids and physical activity? I asked Marci, a former Mississippi resident, to answer some of these questions for us Mississippi parents. She offers valuable help and encouragement in her responses.
Why is it important for kids to be physically active?
“It’s important for kids to be physically active for the same reason it’s important for adults to be physically active. Our bodies were meant to move. Regular physical activity improves our whole wellbeing—physical, mental, emotional, and social. As children’s bodies grow, physical activity impacts the development of all the systems of the body but, in particular, their musculoskeletal and nervous systems. Exercise provides important stimulation so that the muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons grow strong and stay mobile. Likewise, it provides important sensory information for motor development, coordination, and balance.”
How much daily physical activity is recommended for kids?
“Children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day. That activity does not need to be all at once. In fact, 10 minutes here, 12 minutes there, spread throughout their day is a great way for them to accumulate it. Young children can get most of their activity simply from playing, but physically demanding chores count, too. If they’re pushing a vacuum or pulling a rake—they’re getting exercise.”
If kids aren’t interested in playing sports, what are some ways to help motivate them to be active and ENJOY being active?
“People say the best way to get your kids to read is to show them how much you enjoy reading. Physical activity is not any different. If you don’t enjoy physical activity, it’s going to be hard to sell it to your children. Of course, physical activity does not need to be ‘working out,’ or ‘jogging,’ so even if you don’t like going to the gym, you can still show your children that you enjoy being active. Invite them to go on a walk with you. Ride bikes around the neighborhood. Have a contest to see who can stand on one leg the longest. Turn on music and dance around. Go to the park to toss a Frisbee or swing on the swings together. Work on the yard together. And make whatever physical activity you do with them pleasant—Save nagging or scolding for another time…Old or young, the activity that motivates you to move is going to be the best activity. The more it seems like a chore, the less likely you’ll keep doing it.”
What are “lifetime sports”?
“Any sport or recreational activity you can enjoy your entire life. I don’t see very many people playing tackle football after high school or college. Pickleball is a new and popular lifetime sport. Golf, tennis, weightlifting, swimming, cycling, yoga, hiking, Pilates, dance…These are all sports or recreational activities that you can enjoy throughout your life.”
What tips do you have for helping kids appreciate exercise?
“How about simply appreciating how amazing it is to have a body and all the things our bodies can do and allow us to experience? Parents can be more mindful about how they talk about their own bodies and the messages that they send to their children. Do your children hear you criticize yourself for being too fat or too old or too slow? Stop focusing on all the things you think are wrong with your body and focus on the things you enjoy doing with it. We take for granted all our bodies can do until we get sick or injured, and suddenly, we miss being able to do things that we used to. Walking, talking, breathing, eating, balancing, dancing, jumping, reaching, grabbing… It’s miraculous all that we can do, and yet we waste so much time worrying about how our bodies look.
“Too often exercise is focused on burning calories or losing weight, and there is not enough focus on having fun, enjoying movement, and appreciating our bodies. Our children will learn a lot from our behavior and will pick up on our attitudes. If we treat exercise like a punishment for eating too much dessert, they will start thinking of it like that, too.”
What advice can you give to parents whose children very much dislike physical activity?
“If you are a fitness enthusiast or former athlete, know that your children will be especially sensitive to how their disinterest in sports or exercise might disappoint you, so just love and accept them exactly as they are. Show interest in whatever they are interested in. Your child may never like sports or exercise, and that’s okay. Just keep creating opportunities for them to get up and move in less formal ways. Being physically active does not have to mean going to the gym or suffering on a treadmill. Try to work movement into your family’s day-to-day routine, whether that means an evening walk, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or dancing around while you do the dishes together. Small bouts of movement spread throughout the day is a great way to stay active.”
Parents, let’s join Marci in this mission to get our kids (and ourselves) into regular rhythms of enjoyable physical activity. Our bodies were meant to move!
Carrie Bevell Partridge lived in North Mississippi for seven years and has lived in Central Mississippi for twenty-two years. She met her husband Kevin at Mississippi College, and they have raised their five children in this state. Read more from Carrie at carriebevellpartridge.com.