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Sunday, March 07, 2021

How to make sure your child is not missing out on fitness during the pandemic

With these solutions in place, your child will be equipped to stay fit even through a pandemic!

By: Parenting Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: January 31, 2021 8:27:28 pm
Junior tennisOrganised by Pravin Zite, in association with Pune Metropolitan District Tennis Association (PMDTA) and supported by ICON, the U-10 tournament matches were held at MSLTA School of Tennis, Mhalunge Balewadi. (Photo: Pixabay/Representational)

By Vijay Thakkar

The human health tripod

Good health rests upon three fundamental factors that apply to each of us: regular workouts, proper nutrition, and adequate rest and recovery. We need to take care of these three pillars in equal measure, in order to live our best life. Simply regular workouts or sports will not help if a wholesome diet isn’t followed, or if one isn’t getting enough rest. To put things into perspective, these three aspects are interconnected, and each deserves to be given due importance. When balancing a tripod camera, it’s crucial all three sides are held firmly down in place to ensure smooth functioning. Similarly, in order to optimise your child’s health and prevent them from falling sick, it’s essential to implement all three of these tenets.

Physical fitness

Children need to be active for at least 60 minutes a day, six times a week. That’s the benchmark for optimal growth. So when it comes to physical activity, this is the minimum level to incorporate into their routine.

During a pandemic, parents can engage their children in non-contact sports. Tennis, badminton or squash do not require contact, but need you to be active. Parents can supervise their playtime to reduce the risk of catching infection and bringing it home.

Parents can also leverage technology to get their kids to be active. Today, there are plenty of virtual games you can play at home that require you to physically exert yourself. For instance, many popular console games come with lots of options which involve physical activity, which will let you isolate while remaining active. Also, bear in mind children tend to look to their parents or adults around them as examples, and will imitate them often. This means adult in the house needs to make fitness a priority.

Mental health

Physical fitness will also take care of your child’s mental fitness, because when one gets active, the hormone endorphin sets in. The release of endorphins help in having a more positive mind.

Secondly, you can engage your children in puzzle-solving games like chess, Sudoku and quizzes which will encourage them to be mentally active. Use technology wisely, too, and minimise screen time as much as possible.

Nutrition

Nutrition plays a key role in the well-being of a child. If they are is consuming nutritionally-empty food which has lots of sugar, flour and MSG in it, it is going to be detrimental to their health. MSG causes bone erosion and loss, which affects growth. Additionally, high intake of MSG can also cause hypoglycaemia (abnormal drop in blood sugar), which results in gluttony and ravenous craving for high-sugar foods.

Furthermore, when blood sugar levels drop, it stresses out our body and signals hunger. When there’s a break in blood glucose, the body has to get glucose from somewhere. There are only two places from where it can get this — muscle tissue and liver. Muscle tissue cannot be used for breaking down carbohydrates stored in it into blood glucose. The only reserve at its disposal is the liver. To use this, the body sends signals so that it will release the glucose. It does this through the stress hormone cortisol.  When cortisol is high, your body craves sugar, since blood sugar level is very low. This can cause children to become cranky easily and reach for high-sugar snacks, which creates the vicious cycle of craving and crashing, and in the long run, obesity and diabetes.

From a nutritional point of view, this affects both their physical and mental health — physical because of bone erosion, undue corpulence, and mental because of high levels of stress hormones causing depressive behaviour and foggy brain.

As a parent, it is important to ensure your child is eating a diet primarily of whole foods such as fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables, pulses, eggs and dairy products at home.

Rest and recovery

Getting enough sleep and rest is equally important for good health. One factor that majorly hampers sleep is screen-time. Screens emit blue light which influences eyesight, mood, and our ability to sleep. Screen-time actually affects the circadian rhythm of your child. A circadian cycle is our biological clock that instructs our bodies to be active or at rest. In the morning, it tells your body to be active and at night, to sleep. The sun emits blue light that informs the body when it’s time to be active. Electronic screens also emit this light. If  we’re exposed to it when we should be sleeping, our body thinks it’s time to be active! This is why it’s recommended that children stop using electronic gadgets at least an hour before bedtime. When children try sleeping immediately after screen-time, they have a broken sleep pattern, which leads to insufficient rest and more stress. Excessive exposure to blue light also causes headaches.

Technology fixes

Parents can set up blue light filters for their children or get them glasses with tints. Many sleep scientists recommend this. These block out blue light, turn the screen yellow and help one’s hormones adjust.

With these solutions in place, your child will be equipped to stay fit even through a pandemic!

(The writer is an entrepreneur, and an industry expert on health, wellness, lifestyle, fitness, and nutrition in India)

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