By Reem Abdurrahman Jassim al-Muftah
Regular exercise is a key to happy and healthy mind. As adults, it seems we only truly understand this concept when it’s too late and then always regret why we didn’t start earlier. What do we do now? We need to learn from our mistakes and help our children develop and understand the holistic benefits of regular exercise from an early stage before it’s too late for them too. Through my personal experience as an example, I would like to highlight certain experiences that developed and supported a positive wellness attitude in me from the start.
As a young child, I saw my father and mother consistently motivating me to be active and to eat well so I can ‘grow big,’ ‘strong’ and of course, ‘smart.’ What I did not know was that it would be the actual key to my overall well-being! My father initially ignited my love for playing sports as he was a football player himself. Growing up with him, playing football with my siblings and I, taking me out for a brisk walk around the neighbourhood after dinner or asking me to help him with his handyman chores and gardening were all helping shape my future lifestyle. On the other end, my mother would continuously show and explain, with her own hands, what I should eat and why; a balanced diet composed of all the necessities our growing bodies need. Watching my father maintain his physical activity and simultaneously watching my mother prepare and cook our food is what I believe was the foundation of my healthy lifestyle today. Parents are critical in laying this foundation for their children, you have to practise what you preach, especially at home and even more so, in the kitchen and the great outdoors. Children need to see their role models being healthy and active and understand that it really IS a necessary element to life.
Yes, I started to understand the important role that physical activity and food played in a balanced and healthy lifestyle, but then I started understanding emotional and social factors too. Being in a school that offered physical education and after-school sports activities and with the strong support of my parents, engaging in various sports definitely further instilled in me my wellness values. When children have a passion for sports or even at least try to engage, they learn things like self-discipline for tryouts and commitment to team practices while learning rules, sports etiquette and how to be a team player. Simultaneously, they experience so much through sports such as the principles of competition and sportsmanship. Let’s not forget to mention the emotional experiences they go through that help them develop their emotional maturity. For example, being exposed to different social surroundings and events, dealing with teammates and coaches or even the tougher challenges such as not making the team, losing or even getting injured. An element of sports is definitely beneficial to a child’s upbringing and engaging in sports with them is even a better way of being an active role model.
Now let’s go back to how this leads to a happy and healthy mind, as adults, we now understand that when we physically exert ourselves, our bodies release neurotransmitters (signals) that help balance our body’s reactions to stress and pain, in turn, releasing a rush of ‘happiness’ through our bodies and regulating our mood. The more we exercise, the more we can get addicted and realise how good it feels to be active on a regular basis. Children cannot easily understand this, but we still have to try and convince them of this truth is by showing them exactly how it works, and that is where we come in, where our personal choices make a difference on others. Children are easily influenced, so let’s use it to our advantage and lead by example. Motivation and role models are key in our community, so if you haven’t already, take this as an opportunity to take control of your own lifestyle, but also show those around you how it’s done, especially our young.
n The author is a wellness advocate and influencer @keys2balance.
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