Show your child the benefits of exercise
The benefits of exercise go far beyond the physical. Discover the scientific facts about the positive link between exercise and body image, and give your child the exercise bug, with our action checklist.
Fitness and the feel-good factor
How often do you exercise or take part in physical activity, and how do you feel afterwards? It can be a struggle to get to the gym or go jogging, but according to the NHS, the benefits of exercise include improvements to self-esteem, mood, sleep-quality and energy, as well as a reduction in stress.
That goes for your child too. They don’t have to be a sports captain or prima ballerina to feel the benefits of being active – they just need to find an activity they enjoy, that gets their body moving.
If your child is exercising regularly, they're likely to feel better about themselves and their body, regardless of whether the exercise is changing their shape. Plenty of studies have proven that regular exercise improves our body image.
The link between exercise and healthy body image
Published by the UK government, the Body Confidence campaign progress report 2013 shows that people who do sporting activities have a more positive body image, compared with those not involved in sports. Having body confidence means people feel more comfortable taking exercise, which boosts both physical and mental health.
Mum Martine says her focus on feeling fit and healthy has rubbed off on 15-year-old Lucy. “My daughter agrees that exercising and feeling good is far more important than starving yourself and being a size zero,” she says.
Adolescence is a time for new activities
Research by the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation showed girls often reject activities they previously enjoyed during adolescence. However, as this is a time when their self-esteem is likely to be fragile, keeping fit could give their body confidence a much-needed boost. Outline the benefits of regular exercise and together see if you can find something new your child wants to do. Make it a part of your lifestyle, and if you can, fit something active into your daily routine.
“We’ve tried various exercise classes together and talk about how good it feels to stay in shape,” says Martine. “Lucy now really enjoys taking a regular class with her friend, and has recently run a 10k race.”
Enjoy the benefits of exercise together
If your child sees you exercising – and the positive effects it has on you – they're more likely to think it’s a good thing to do themselves.
Use our action checklist to encourage your child to try different activities, and find something they really enjoy. They’ll feel better physically and emotionally – and be happier about their body too.
Support their choice of activities
As long as they're enjoying it, go with the flow
Try new activities together
Finding a form of exercise you both like can be a great way to spend more quality time together
Make it social
Doing a sport or fitness class with friends means your child will gain just as much socially, as physically. Usually, exercising with friends is more fun, which makes us more likely to stick at it
Explain that exercise makes us stronger in many ways
If your child has a strong interest in a particular sport or athlete, talk about their strengths. Professional athletes have mental strength, self-discipline, determination and leadership skills, as well as being at the peak of physical fitness for their sport
Keep your child focused on how they feel, not how they look
Aspiring to a ‘media perfect’ or elite athlete’s body is neither realistic, nor helpful. If your child starts criticising their body, remind them that the aim is to stay healthy, and for their body to do the job they're asking it to do
- Working out can be just as much of a mental health exercise as a physical one. Talk to your child about what’s going on in their head while they're exercising
- Young people can feel downhearted or defeated if they get too competitive, so remind them it’s just for fun