In India, activity levels in children, as compared to Australia, South Africa, New Zealand etc. are much less. This is both a logistical and cultural thing. Tier 1 cities in India are lacking in open spaces, especially in metropolitan cities like Mumbai. Limitations in facilities, transport, poor access as well as time constraints add to it. It’s really sad, because I think kids are missing out on an enormous part of their development, both physically and cognitively.
Certain structures in the body, like the Achilles tendon, the patella tendon etc respond to loading and develop resilience. Simply put, the more you hop, skip, jump and run in childhood, the less likely the chances of you developing injuries in those structures later in life, especially if you happen to take up a sport in your teens.
I’ve noticed that in India, a lot of kids are carried, physically. It’s wonderful to build connections but the children here spend much less time on their feet as opposed to other parts of the world. This can hinder development. To add to this, there is a lack of structured sports in school curriculums, with the focus being on theoretical knowledge. Kids spend so much time studying for exams that they’re not necessarily participating as much physical activity as they should. I think sports curriculum definitely needs to be looked at as it sets a habit for children later in life and can be doubly useful when combating obesity, diabetes and other health ailments that spring up due to a certain level of inactivity.
Studies show the more active you are as a child, the more likely you are to maintain activity into adulthood, as it helps you become more disciplined. Studies also show that physical activity stimulates cognitive development. Physically active kids retain and absorb information better, they are more alert and have better sleep patterns which lead to better retention abilities
The other issue is the amount of processed food our kids are exposed to – physical activity can offset that junk food intake. Of course, a healthier diet would be a definite bonus. Parents need to understand the importance of habit forming for kids, as this will eventually set the foundation for future physical or physiological issues.
I have a three year old son, so I can speak first-hand about the incredible pressure on him when it comes to education and tuition. He’s 3! In Australia where I grew up, we didn’t go to school till we were six. Till then, we’d be running, hiking, cycling, swimming etc. Of course, we did have access to much better facilities.
In India, sadly, the priority is to get into the right school, to get the right education so as to get the right positions later on in life. The other side of this coin is that the child’s physical and cognitive development is hindered by that approach. Parents need to find a balance, a good mix. I take my son swimming, running, he plays football, he plays cricket with his friends in the building compound; he’s encouraged to be active all the time. Parents need to understand that with a little bit of civil initiative they can find ways to get their kids active and encourage them to be outdoors. Do it, your kids WILL thank you one day, trust me.
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