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Sports and Exercise for Children

Everyone knows that exercise is good for you. In addition to promoting physical well being, regular exercise brings countless mental, neurological, social and psychological benefits. To develop good exercise habits at an early age, children should be encouraged to include exercise into their everyday routine. Try to combine their natural enthusiasm and energy with a fun activity that they enjoy. In this way, exercise will become not only a habit but also an eagerly anticipated activity. When exercise becomes a regular event, the benefits increase exponentially.

With all the technological distractions available today, getting kids started in a regular exercise regime and then maintaining their interest is not as easy as it once was. For this reason, it is essential that one or both parents, as well as any other family members, such as older siblings or cousins, set a good example by modeling the activity and encouraging the child to keep exploring different types of exercises and sports.

The key factors in promoting exercise as a habit are to have fun, to socialize and to be safe. Exercise, especially for children, must be an enjoyable activity. If children regard exercise as a chore, they will soon lose interest and motivation. For most kids, playing a sport is far more enjoyable than just exercising. Whether playing an individual or a team game, playing sports can also make exercise a social activity, which is another great way to make it into a fun habit. Whether exercising or playing sports, the activity should also be as safe as possible.

Parents can help to minimize the risk of many types of sport and exercise injuries simply by being informed and taking a few preventative measures. Some minor bumps and scrapes are inevitable when children play sports, but in 2014, more than 1.35 million children suffered sports injuries so severe that they required a visit to a hospital emergency department.

According to the non-profit advocacy group Safe Kids Worldwide, sports injuries account for 20% of all cases of children’s injuries that require ER treatment. A US-based study showed that sprains, strains, fractures, contusions, abrasions and concussions are the most common types of injuries among children requiring ER treatment. The most affected parts of the body are the ankle, followed by the head, finger, knee and face. In most cases, these injuries are both predictable and preventable.

Of all the types of sports injuries affecting children, head injuries are the cause for most concern. Because children’s brains are still growing, they take longer to recover from traumatic brain injury than older athletes. If a child has a second concussion, it can be even more problematic. One report showed that concussions are more common in girls than in boys in sports in which both girls and boys participate, although no reason was given for this.

Despite the risks and dangers, there is no denying that exercise and sports are extremely important to children’s overall development. A healthy and active child is far more likely to grow up to be a healthy and active adult. Far from just promoting physical health, regular exercise provides many other benefits. Encourage your children to take up a sport and get involved with them as much as you can. Make sure they stretch before and after any vigorous exercise to warm the muscles up and cool them down to prevent strains. As for physical contact sports, be sure to buy the necessary protective equipment for your child.

By Anjana Sachabudhawong, M.D., Paediatric Pulmonology and Critical Care, Samitivej Children’s Hospital, Sukhumvit Campus

Editor’s note: This article is sponsored content from Samitivej Children’s Hospital, and it is reprinted here with permission of the hospital.

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