How to raise fit kids?

Written by Varuna Shunglu
Published: February 14, 2024
Varuna Shunglu is an author, lawyer, health counselor and meditation teacher. She consults with Schools to create wellness curriculums and has worked with over 10,000+ kids in the last 8 years. Degrees : BA(Hons), LLB, Msc Yogic Science, Teacher trainer World Yoga Federation and Yoga Alliance International.

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What does raising ‘fit’ children mean in our current day scenario? Does being fit only mean that you run a 100-meter race on sports day and win, or do 50 push-ups without stopping? Or does it mean a child who does not fall sick often, is cheerful and balanced, has the energy to finish their work, enjoys being naughty at times and is often loving and affectionate? 

Raising fit and healthy children does not only mean physically healthy children but also encompasses mental health, emotional and psychological health and well-being. This is an all-rounded 360-degree approach and an essential part of their development. 

In this article, we will explore how to help your child become fit and healthy with this all-rounder view and will cover physical activities and games for children, stress management and mindfulness techniques for children and in addition, focus on healthy food and nutrition options for them. At the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of how to create a healthy lifestyle for your child to have them grow as vibrant individuals, hopefully making your job a lot less challenging. 

Physical activities and games for kids

Physical activity is important for kids of all ages, and there are plenty of fun and engaging playtime activities to help improve body strength and balance. In addition to helping kids stay healthy, physical activities and exercise for kids can also provide them with valuable socialization and teamwork skills. 

The Journal of Pediatrics mentions that regular physical activities for kids have numerous benefits: Reduced risk of obesity, improved cardiovascular health by working out 3 to 4 times a week, better mental health, improved academic performance, attention space, osteoporosis and more.

It is vital that parents understand their child and their limitations before they undertake any physical activity for their kids. Here are some checkpoints parents could inspect before taking the plunge.

Types of physical activity for kids and how to choose what your child needs

  1. How to plan your child’s activity plan- Intense, moderate or gentle?
    Whether you’re looking for something simple or complex, chances are there’s an activity out there that your kid will love. Make sure you alternate between intense activity, moderate activity and gentle activity with an ample dose of recovery time.
  1. Planning outdoor activities is a must– Some ideas for fun activities for kids include jumping rope, playing catch, building colourful sand castles, climbing trees, and more.
  1. Consult your doctor before starting any type of exercise program. In addition to proper conditioning, nutrition is also essential for proper development in children to combat nutritional deficiencies and maintain health. If your child is overweight, it is important to start them off with gentle movement and to keep them motivated. 
  1. Understand your family patterns– Family routines encourage healthy living at home – things like setting a good example yourself by eating right and getting enough exercise will set a strong foundation for active kids. Eg:- if you have a sedentary lifestyle and your family eats dinner late at night then it will be more challenging to bring a healthy lifestyle into the fabric of the family. Get in touch with a professional who can guide you in case you need support. 

Making exercise a fun part of a child’s life

Physical activity is not only important for our own health, but it’s also essential for the well-being of our children. A report recently released by the World Obesity Federation shares that by 2030, India will have a prevalence of approximately 10.81% childhood obesity among 5-9 year olds

The first step is to educate your kids to be physically active. What are the different kinds of physical exercises for kids you can explore without them getting bored?

  1. It could be a quick 10-minute walk around the block sometime in the day. SIMPLE IS POWERFUL. 
  1. Gamify activities– Another great way to make exercise for kids enjoyable is by turning it into a game. Play tag with your children outside after their exercise routine, or have them run with you as they carry a heavy item around the house. Play fetch with your dog in case you have a pet. Kids growing up with pets around them are said to have higher immunity.
  1. Nature play– Encourage them to run outside on the lawn or terrace, whatever is available. This regulates the ionic charge of the body and reduces inflammation. Walk around, climb trees or kick around a ball in the open. Participation in activity need not always be competitive. 
  1. Finally, age-appropriate team sports and exercise for kids are essential- so that they develop good habits early and stay physically active including the ability to build lasting relationships with team members. A sense of community ensures better mental health and greater healing as they build friendships and look out for each other.

To help track your child’s progress with physical activity, you can use a fitness tracker or journal. This way you’ll always have proof of their physical activity and can monitor data without getting too obsessive about numbers. 

Healthy food and nutrition options for kids

Food is one of the most important aspects of a child’s development. It’s essential to try new and healthy foods and to learn how to balance meals with protein, carbohydrates and fats in order to stay healthy. By promoting a healthy lifestyle from an early age, you are setting your children up for long-term success.

There are many benefits to a balanced diet for kids, and it’s important that you start early in their development. This is especially important as kids grow and change throughout their lifetime. By following a healthy diet, your child will not only look and feel better but their growth, development and energy levels will also be optimized.

Reasons why we need to know how to structure meals for kids

Even sugar in your diet can give children energy but increases their inflammation levels and can cause long-term damage to their health(e.g, obesity, allergies, digestive issues, mental health (e.g., ADHD). It is very important to know what kind of food can give them true nourishment. 

Those who eat a balanced diet have a better growth rate, a strong immune system, and provide essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins they need for optimal brain health.

A structured meal plan provides your child with the right amount of protein, carbohydrates, fat, fiber, vitamins & minerals at each mealtime to promote healthy digestion & absorption.

Some vegetables may be harder for some kids to stomach at first (e.g- broccoli can be made into a soup at first), but over time they’ll get used to them if they’re included on a regular basis in their meals. 

Finally, Drinking plenty of water is vital during summer months when temperatures are high outside. Children are likely to engage in more outdoor activities than usual, especially with electrolytes to balance essential trace minerals in the body.

What is healthy food for kids and how can we build a healthy foundation for our kids?

Eating healthy food comes when kids understand what they’re eating. 

  1. Teach kids about food labels. They will gradually begin to make better choices for themselves.
  1. Cooking things that are simple and nourishing can develop their taste buds. Remember these childhood experiences leave a lasting impression and we call them “comfort food” later in life.
  1. Cooking healthy meals together: Involving kids in meal prep and cooking healthy meals is an interactive and sensory experience. Traditional recipes that your grandmother or mother made at home with pure ingredients will open up your child’s palate and positively reinforce their sense of self and their motor skills as well. 
  1. You can also set nutritional goals for your growing bodies and find alternatives for sugar like bananas, dates, jaggery etc. However, it’s important to avoid sugary drinks and snacks as well as processed foods in general. Instead, include nutrient-rich foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables in their diets. 
  1. Seasonal and locally grown vegetables and fruits will teach your children to appreciate the beauty of ayurveda and its knowledge in changing tastes for changing seasons. These foods will provide all the nutrients your child needs while keeping their calorie intake low.
  1. Keep healthy snacks handy at home  –something that will keep your child occupied while they’re waiting for their next meal! Some celebrity kids who transformed themselves through healthy eating habits and a regular fitness routine such as Alia Bhatt and Sonam Kapoor have daily practices that keep them in fitness mode despite hectic schedules and busy lifestyles. A little extra weight isn’t a bad thing, however, a sluggish lifestyle, bad digestion, allergies and other indicators show that your child might need some support with their lifestyle.

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Mindful meditation for kids and powerful stress management techniques 

Stress is a common problem for adults, but it can be even more challenging for kids. As children, we aren’t able to express ourselves fully which might lead to more tumultuous emotional experiences. Kids today are constantly bombarded with new information and experiencing “dopamine highs”  from seeking validation through social media and the pressure to be present online and be liked or appreciated. This can lead to increased stress hormones, leading to imbalances and issues like low energy, feeling sad, body image issues, PCOS etc. 

Thankfully, there are many ways that you can help your kids manage stress and anxiety but the path can feel like a struggle as they challenge your boundaries and demand some screen time. It is important as parents to be able to put our message across firmly but with love.

  1. Reducing screen time– No screen time during meals and before bedtime. Encourage more relaxing activities before going to bed. Also, have a dedicated time of not more than 60 mins of screen time a day.
  2. Breathing  exercises and relaxation techniques can set them apart from those simply following a solid physical activity and a healthy diet.  Meditation for kids helps them in everyday life to remain focused. Try some bhramari or full yogic breathing to enhance memory and focus.
  3. Some yoga nidra (lying down pose or savasana) with guided imagery might be a great way to reduce stress. 
  4. Pressure points and somatic release by way of activating certain areas on the body to let go of tension might be a quick effective technique to use in times you need immediate relief. Eg: tapping between the breast bone to calm your mind down. This is one of the points that activate the thymus gland. Even a hug sometimes does the work of relaxing your child and releasing all the right hormones. So if you’re looking for ways to reduce your child’s stress levels or help them focus in class or during homework time, give the above a try!

Final thoughts- 

Raising fit and healthy children requires nurturing a lifestyle that includes physical activities and games, healthy food and nutrition options, as well as mindful meditation and stress management techniques. It may feel like A LOT! All of these components are essential for helping children develop the skills they need to live a long and prosperous life but you can start small and start with one aspect and have your kid internalise this before you go on with the next aspect. Eg:- if you’re correcting food habits, spend a few weeks on this before you add in walking or a new activity. The best habits develop slowly and are best sustained with a kind and loving community and family to cheer you on!

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The views expressed are that of the expert alone.

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