Though we won’t stoop to hyperbolic scaremongering here, it cannot be denied that our nation’s children are nowhere near as active as they used to be. You could put this down to the rise in home entertainment (video games in particular) and the ever-growing paranoia of parents who have been told by the media to never let their children out of their site, but the sad truth is that we’re just not encouraging our children enough to enjoy physically active lives.
Years ago, children would return from school, change out of the school clothes and then head straight back outside with their friends, off on some grand adventure. Now, children are more likely to simply slump in front of the television or their computers until bed time. With the kids of today so content with spending their free time sitting still, it can be remarkably difficult to get them truly enthused with the idea of exercise. But exercise doesn’t have to be dull and this is where outdoor sports come in.
Here we’ll list some of the best sports that are perfectly suited for children. They are safe, fun and (most importantly of all) incredibly active, and should help your children not only improve their overall fitness levels, but make plenty of new friends in the process.
Ok, whilst it isn’t technically a sport, simple old fashioned walking (or let’s call it ‘Hiking’ for argument’s sake) is great form of exercise that should be open to children as young as 2 or 3 years old as it’s perfectly safe and is not competitive in any way. Just taking your young children out for a walk every day for half an hour or so should help with their overall balance, leg strength and coordination, as well as giving them an appreciation of the great outdoors from an early age.
Obviously you won’t really need to ‘gear up’ to go on a half hour walk with your family, but for many of the activities listed, you’ll want to make sure your children are well kitted out. Sporting and outdoor equipment can be found in most high street sports stores and in specialist stores, as well as online at SportPursuit and other bespoke online outlets. When compared to modern games consoles and ‘tablets’, the outlay will be significantly less and you’ll be teaching your child the value of living a healthy, active life.
The national pastime, Football is probably the easiest sport to get children into because it’s so popular that they will no doubt have already been exposed to it in some capacity, they might even already have a favourite team or player that they wish to emulate. Getting your kids started in Football is remarkably easy as so little equipment is required. In theory all you need is a ball, two items that could logistically be used as makeshift goalposts (why not go really old school and use a couple of jumpers?) and a garden. There are also numerous football leagues for young players and teenagers scattered about the country, with most cities, towns and even villages boasting their own teams. Also, your child will probably be playing football at school, both in P.E and during their lunch breaks. It really is a sport that can be played anywhere by anyone, hence it’s lasting universal appeal. It should be noted that most of the points noted above and below will also hold true when referring to most team sports, including (but not limited to) Rugby, Basketball and Hockey.
Physical benefits of football include an increase in general stamina, as well as muscle strength, flexibility, balance and cardiovascular endurance. Socially it will help them learn discipline, teamwork and leadership skills.
Children have enjoyed climbing into their bike saddles and going on adventures with one another for decades, and since the 2012 Olympic games, cycling has become a more visible pastime than ever before. Although cycling is not a hobby recommended for very young children (though you should at least be teaching them how), for children between the ages of 8 and 12 there is not only the active nature of the pastime, but also the fact it allows them a certain degree of independence. Let’s put it this way; could you have imagined your childhood without a bicycle? Of course cycling can be a dangerous pastime so make sure your children are equipped with all the right gear (chiefly a strong helmet) and have a good understanding of the basic mechanics of the bike, in case they run into trouble.
Physical benefits of cycling include an increase in leg strength, weight control and cardiovascular fitness, as well as better balance and hand-eye co-ordination. Socially it will help them develop independence, environmental awareness, and a sense of community and discipline.
With Andy Murray’s legendary win at Wimbledon last year, Tennis in this country has never been more popular, so there has never been a better time to get your children involved in the sport. Tennis is not quite as flexible as Football or Rugby or many of the team sports, as you’ll need a Tennis court on which to play. You will find tennis courts in most of the country’s leisure centres and country clubs though and signing up to a tennis club will not only give your children the chance to enjoy the sport, but the nurture a sense of community. Be warned though that good racquets, lessons and club memberships will be expensive.
The physical benefits of tennis include an increase in leg and upper body strength, weight control and cardiovascular fitness, as well as better balance and hand-eye co-ordination. Socially it will help them develop discipline, self-esteem and fairness.
About the Author: Billy Henry has been a proponent of the great outdoors his entire life, and continues to live an active lifestyle to this day. He would like to think that his children will do likewise.