As a parent, you know the benefits of participating in youth sports programs. Children who play sports learn to work with other members of the team for a common goal, build leadership skills, learn to get back up when they fail and improve physical health.
But youth sports isn’t right for every child. Children have different personalities, gifts and challenges. You know the benefits of youth sports, but forcing a child to play does more harm than good.
Is it possible to encourage fitness if it’s clear your child doesn’t like sports? The answer is yes. Try one of these alternatives to keep your child fit and develop into a healthy adult.
Whether it’s in the mountains or taking on the designated routes through town, riding a bicycle is a great way to stay fit. Most children enjoy the freedom bike riding gives them and don’t have to be prodded to get out and rid. In addition to the fun and fresh air, bike riding also improves fitness in the following ways:
- Improves balance
- Burns calories
- Builds muscles
- Strengthens heart and lungs
- Strengthens and develops knee muscles without impact
Children of all shapes and abilities can ride a bike. Choose a bike that fits your child’s size and capabilities. Begin with training wheels, if necessary, and move up as your child grows and gains confidence.
Every child should learn to swim. It’s a safety issue. But beyond that, swimming is one of the healthiest forms of exercise there is.
Swimming provides an effective cardiovascular workout that increases stamina, builds flexibility and muscle strength and promotes healthy heart and lungs all without the joint strain.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) found that people who swim exercise for longer periods of time than those engaged in other forms of exercise. Part of the reason for longer exercise time is that swimming improves mental health. Unlike other forms of exercise, swimming doesn’t feel like exercise. It feels like fun.
- Martial Arts
What makes martial arts different from other forms of exercise is that it’s an overall discipline. The body, mind and spirit come together in perfect harmony. Children who participate in martial arts learn not only how to use their bodies, but their minds as well.
Whether it’s karate, jujitsu, tae kwon do kung fu, judo or one of the other disciplines; fitness plays a crucial role. Most classes for children begin with warmups and stretches. The specific discipline’s movements themselves support heart and lungs and build strong muscles.
Martial arts training is a great confidence builder. With each mastered skill, a child’s self-esteem grows. Martial arts programs use a system of belt rankings to give children realistic goals to achieve. As each rank is reached, confidence soars.
Self-defense is a cornerstone in most martial arts programs, but it’s tempered with learning how to respect and treat others. Children bow to instructors as a sign of deference. Instructors focus on how to treat parents, peers and their teachers.
The best martial arts program teach children how to defend themselves, but also teach techniques to diffuse a situation before a physical altercation occurs.