Column: Sports Health By Matt Borowski

I recently read an article from usnews.com by Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D. regarding ways to raise kids to be active. I felt as though the article had some great points for parents or even grandparents to consider while raising children.

Kids oftentimes avoid participation in activities not because they don’t want to play, but because they may be suffering from a lack of ability or confidence.

In sports medicine, we call this “physical literacy,” which is the ability, confidence and desire to be physically active for life. As parents, instilling an active lifestyle early in a child’s life can help increase a kid’s physical literacy, which may deter children from a sedentary lifestyle. The article discussed three ways to instill an active lifestyle in children.

The first thing parents can do to instill an active lifestyle is model active behavior themselves. Parents are often the adult that dictates which activities their children are allowed to participate in, especially during the summer months. Parents are also the role models when it comes to living an active lifestyle.

A poor example would be to tell your kids to go outside and play, while you sit inside on the couch and go on a Netflix binge. Rather, parents need to be more proactive in integrating exercise and active play into both the kid’s daily routine and their own. If kid’s see their parents actively involved they will tend to join in when included.

The second thing a parent can do for their children is to embrace a wide variety of sports or activities. Our society has been trending more and more toward early specialization of activities, so your child isn’t “behind the curve” for development, but that may actually lead to burnout or chronic overuse injuries. As parents, actively listen to any interests your children may express, and don’t be afraid to expose them to new things even if it’s not your preference. The only way for children to know what they will truly enjoy is to expose them to a wide variety of activities and let them decide for themselves.

A third thing parents can do to help children live actively is to become an advocate in the community when necessary. Many communities lack the programs or volunteers needed to promote physical activity. It is up to the parents and community to make an environment conducive to promoting wellness. If your town is lacking safe and updated playgrounds, then start an initiative to fix that.

Would parents like their children in once-a-week sports leagues, similar to some adult leagues? If yes, then do something about it! It is the responsibility of the parents, coaches, teachers and community to provide an adequate platform for children to succeed and to maintain sufficient physical literacy, which does wonders for a child’s confidence not just in activities, but in all aspects of life.

Do you have a question regarding sports medicine that you would like to see addressed in this space in the future?  Send your questions to SportsMed@lrhc.org and it may be featured in an upcoming article.

Matt Borowski is an athletic trainer for Lake Region Healthcare Sports Medicine

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