Inculcating Fitness in Children

Saturdays With Shivani

The biggest reason for me to begin my fitness journey is my daughter. Not only do I want to be fitter for her, but she inspires me with her own enthusiasm for exercise. I often have conversations with her as to what motivates her and what I write today is a gist of those conversations with a huge input from her.

Get your reasons right

Like for everything else, for exercise too do it for the right reasons. Exercise is a lifestyle choice for a lifetime and peer pressure or a certain body shape will only take you that far. Give it a good thought before introducing it to your children as to why they should be doing it. So many of them grow up hating it (including me) and not pursuing it later in life.

Conducive atmosphere at home

Neither of us consciously pushed her but my husband is definitely a good role model. Example is better than precept as they say. His regularity and dedication have inspired our daughter. As for me, I came out clean with her that my choices weren’t healthy. I would like to believe that it did have an impact on her. Children appreciate honesty and logic. It’s the adults who need to have the courage to do that.

Curate exposures

Before leaving India, our daughter would play with her friends in our complex and that more or less ensured that she got her share of exercise. However, I had started noticing that as the girls were growing, they were moving away from active playing (not so with boys by the way) and that had started to worry me. We consciously started planning activities with her friends that involved physical rigour and it was helpful.

Choose the right role models

We moved out of India when our daughter was ten. While we were finding our feet in the new place, my daughter came home from school excited to share about her PE teacher how fit she was. That teacher may not even know but she has been a role model of sorts for our girl. She looks up to her and aspires to have stronger abs, biceps, back etc. I find it a better deal than the fads that are commonly associated with beauty. For us what was serendipity can be an important pointer for parents— consciously expose your children to such role models so they know what to opt for and imitate.

Let the child decide

Here I quote my daughter almost verbatim— Parents should not presume that their preferred form of exercise would happily be embraced by their kids too. They need to know what their child enjoys and try to build a fitness routine around it. If the kid likes to dance there are so many dance-based circuits that can be explored.

Watch what you eat and when you eat

Recently I overheard my daughter telling my husband that when we had moved here, she fell into a pattern of celebrating and moping with food. I don’t recall it but she claims that I pointed it out and we removed food from the emotional equation. Emotional eating is hazardous and a lot of our movies/ serials stereotype it to the extent that we normalise it; a red flag we should always be watchful of.

Our generation had it simpler because with little or no distractions we would heavily rely on playing for entertainment and that took care of our growing years. For the current lot, even in the pre-pandemic times physical fitness was a cause of concern; the pandemic has only intensified that. Sit with your children and discuss fitness with them. Plan physical activities that not only give you time with them but also makes them fitter. Fitness is a life skill they will thank you for later if you impart it today.

Dr. Shivani Salil

One comment

  • Rhiti Chatterjee Bose

    Thank you for this. I will try to explain this to Raya.


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