How to keep children active and focused.

We all know how important a healthy, balanced and varied diet is for child development. As the school term approaches, it’s important to keep your kids enthusiastic about physical activity through the New Year.

IHMRI’s Dr. Monique Francois is a researcher in exercise and nutrition, from the UOW School of Medicine.

She said that encouraging exercise habits in children goes much further than just physical fitness.

“The benefits of physical activity are essential for child development. It improves self-confidence, aids in bone strength, reduces risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as assisting brain development and improving concentration,” Dr. Francois said.

According to Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines, primary school aged children (5-12) should be aiming for at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day.

“It’s great to encourage activities like team sports, or taking kids to the beach, for a bushwalk or a bike ride when you can,” said Dr. Francois.

She said it’s also important that children eat regularly.

“Kids should have a variety of healthy meals and snacks throughout the day to avoid binging on packaged or processed foods before or after school.”

What should they be eating before exercise?

“Sports, particularly those that are high intensity increase the carbohydrate and caloric needs of young children. Carbohydrates (whole grain breads, fruit and vegetables) directly convert in the body to glucose, providing the necessary fuel for ‘quick’ muscle contractions,” Dr. Francois said.

“Sweets like muesli bars, lollies, white breads, muffins and biscuits convert to glucose in the body very quickly and do not sustain energy levels.”

Water will always be the recommended drink for kids. However, hot days can allow for watered down, frozen sports drink to replenish sweat loss, particularly for high-intensity or longer exercise.

“As for post-exercise, this is where protein from milk, nuts and meats become more important for muscle recovery. Carbohydrates will also replace the energy used by the muscle. This is where combined protein and carbohydrate options like flavoured milk and yogurt can be beneficial. It’s best to consume these as soon as possible after exercise, to maximise the benefits of the exercise.”

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