Article written by Tanya Badenhorst (BSc, Hons Biokinetics)
A healthy mind goes hand in hand with a healthy body. The past year and a half challenged children and parents alike. With school sports starting and then stopping again, constant wearing of masks, and no running during school break time, the onus to keep young children active is (once again) on the parents.
Before the pandemic era, biokineticists and other therapists like myself advised teachers to allow children to run, kick, play, and do “heavy work” during break time in order to get rid of pent-up energy, to calm, and to improve focus. Now, in many schools, this natural preventative medicine and science have gone out the backdoor and we see a rise in anxious, frustrated, and/or obese children. As parents, we can agree that this is not the life we planned for our children and it leaves us asking what we can do to help them cope. I know right, do we even have more capacity to help our children?? The below tips will help you to see the benefit and make exercise practical for you and your kids.
Build immunity and fight viruses, through exercise
Building great immunity during flu season is of utmost importance as this will help your body fight off nasty viruses. Over the last few decades, research has explored how exercise affects our bodies. Most researchers agree that regular, moderate exercise strengthens the immune system. On the other hand, too much high-intensity exercise may suppress the immune system, leading to an “open window” of increased risk for infection in the hours directly following exercise.
Measure it: But how do you determine moderate exercise intensity?
A great way of testing how intense your exercise is is by doing the well-researched “Counting Talk Test”. When you are at rest, just count as high as you can before having to take a second breath. Now give yourself a target number range to count during exercise, which corresponds to moderate intensity. This means if you can count <=25 at rest then during moderate to intense exercise you or your child can do 40-50% of your original counting test at rest (.: If you counted to 25 then doing moderate exercise at 50% will be 12-13 counts before you have to take another breath). It is as easy as that!
Single breath count at rest: 25
Target single breath count for moderate exercise 40%-50% of 25 = 10 – 13 counts in one breath.
Quick and Easy: How to make exercise a lifestyle
As time is of essence and resources are often limited during the lockdown, try to stick with a simple program that includes:
- Cardio (fun family activities include bike riding, hiking, basketball, and tennis)
- Resistance training (climbing, obstacle courses, load activities, chores)
- Flexibility and relaxation (breathing exercises, mild stretching 2×30 seconds per area)
Add positive affirmations to your routine to fight off any anxious thoughts. E.g. I am bold, I am strong, sickness is not my portion. I walk in divine health!”
Stay motivated, reap the rewards
Even though a lot can be done at and around your home, it helps to keep motivation levels high by visiting a fun outdoor playpark. Here children can benefit from nature, wide-open space, they can exercise at their own pace or intensity and enjoy the thrill of movement as they zip from tree to tree. Make it a special family tradition or a reward for all the hard work that went in during the week.
Acrobranch offers a loyalty club, which means that your 5th visit can be free. Remember to request your loyalty pass upon arrival at the park, which they will sign after each visit.
Make it easy for yourself, parents – you are carrying enough weight already. Go out, have fun!
*Please note that any guidance provided in this article is not medical advice, it is intended for individuals who have not been diagnosed with and/or do not present with any contraindications to exercise, or other special populations. Please consult your physician before you start an exercise routine.
BIO: Tanya Badenhorst is a wife of one and mom of two, she studied science for four years and then did her honours in Biokinetics – it is the study of movement. She is the founder of Things to do With Kids Cape Town and a strong advocate of a healthy mind, body, and spiritual life.