Help your child discover the benefits of exercise
The benefits of exercise go far beyond the physical. Discover the scientific facts about the positive link between movement and self-esteem, and help your child discover just how many amazing things their body can do.
The feel-good factor
Let’s start with the basics: why is it important to exercise? The benefits of exercising include improvements to self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as a reduction in stress. The relationship between physical exercise and mental health is undeniable. So, 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 and sense of self.
When you think of children and exercise, your mind might be full of frantic playgrounds or loud soft play centres – but movement can be a chance for children to slow down, too. When movement is done mindfully, it helps us focus on our breathing and being present in the moment. Children are under a lot of stress and pressure – juggling school work, extra curricular activities, socialising and life online. That’s where the importance of physical activity comes in. Giving them a chance to calmly connect with their mind without the distractions of daily life is vital to their health and wellness.
Adolescence and new activities
Like any other hobby, sport and self-esteem are closely linked. But, it can be a struggle for children to find an accessible physical activity that interests them, especially if the only examples of exercise they see are ultra marathons or Olympic weightlifting. But 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. Research by the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (PDF) (811 KB) 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, continuing with an activity they love, or trying something new could give their confidence a much-needed boost.
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