Is my child doing adequate physical activity? Is it important for my child to be physically active and spend few hours playing or cycling? These are the questions which pop up in minds of majority of the parents. Advancement in technology and better employment opportunities in urban areas have led people to leave their native place and move to cities to stay in small rented accommodation. To accommodate increasing population and meet their need of housing, increased construction of buildings in metropolises has left little space for parks and grounds for children to play and swing.
However, many schools do realize the importance of keeping the child physically active for his/her overall development and have made physical education a mandatory subject in their curriculum. It is important for parents to inculcate habits among children to be physically active and practice few sports which is not only important for holistic growth and development of the child but also keeps him/her at bay of obesity and many other metabolic diseases such as type 2 Diabetes, Cancer and heart diseases linked to sedentary lifestyle. Physical Activity also helps children maintain optimal energy balance, reduces stress, shun unhealthy behaviours such as alcohol consumption, drug and tobacco use, helps them become more expressive and independent, gives them an opportunity to bond and interact with their peer group and helps them demonstrate better academic performance in school.
As per WHO (World Health Organisation) guidelines, children and adolescent (aged 5- 17 years) should engage themselves in 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity level of physical activity daily. Parents whose children are physically inactive should introduce them to perform 30 minutes of moderate level of activity daily, gradually increasing the duration, frequency and intensity.
Since an adequate amount of physical activity requires a lot of energy expenditure, strength and stamina, being a concerned parent it is very important for us to understand the requirements of our child in terms of diet and food before and after a moderate or heavy bout of physical activity. Following points should be kept in mind to maximise muscle building and minimise stress and tiredness for children:
- Avoid giving any food or drink except water one hour before the child goes out to play as it may not get digested and makes the child feel giddy and nauseated. However, make sure that the child is not hungry and empty stomach and has had something 1- 2 hour before going out to play as it may lead to fatigue and hypoglycaemia.
- Cycling, running or any form of physical activity involves muscle action leading to heat production. Children sweat less in comparison to adults and thus have lower capacity to dissipate heat decreasing the body’s ability to cool itself and increasing the risk of heat related illness. Therefore, it is essential to keep the child well hydrated. The child’s water bottle/ sipper should come handy before he/ she goes out to play.
- Include foods which are rich in carbohydrates, non-greasy and are readily digested such as cereals that include toast with jelly, cornflakes with milk, yogurt, upma, vermicelli, poha, idli, banana which are rich in energy and provide child with stamina to cope with the stress associated with vigorous physical activity.
- Make your child eat one of the aforementioned high carbohydrate food immediately within 30 minutes after any physical activity to ensure muscle glycogen resynthesis. It may be possible that the child might not feel like eating anything immediately and may find it simpler to rather drink something such as lemon water sweetened with glucose, sweetened lassi etc.
- There has been a concern among people to include protein rich food in the diet of the child before and after a bout of physical activity. However, consuming more protein then is required by the body is not necessary and should be avoided.
- Avoid giving too much of fried food and concentrate more on baked and steamed food products. Fat should be given in limited quantity as it delays stomach emptying time and takes longer to digest.
Nutrition during physical activity should be sufficient to ensure growth, increase performance, prevent injuries, maintains proper body weight and improves health so that these memories can be cherished later on by the child.