Kids Say – Let us Play!

Physical activity is a vital part of children’s health, according to Maura O’Sullivan-Ryan, Director of the National Certificate in Exercise & Fitness and Senior Facilitator on the Irish Heart Foundation’s Action for Life Programme in primary and secondary schools.

Did you know that physically active children have fewer chronic health problems than kids who are inactive? Children who develop good exercise habits early in life are more likely to be active as adults and active adults live longer. Active children and adults have a much lower risk of developing problems like high blood pressure, too much ‘bad’ cholesterol and risk of heart attack and stroke.

Physical activity also helps reduce risk of diabetes and cancer and bone disease. Not only that, but children who are active are more rounded as individuals. They’re better able to meet the demands of daily living – they socialise better, they generally do better at school, they feel better about themselves and have more self-confidence. It’s a natural instinct for children to be active but there are plenty of reasons why children’s activity levels fall. Television, computer games, DVDs, endless homework, busy parents, unsafe roads, a lack of playgrounds – they’re all obstacles to your child being more active.

Some parents find they are acting as unpaid taxis taking children to after-school activities, from soccer to swimming, boxing to basketball, camogie to dance … and that’s fantastic. But it is equally important to ensure that children build physical activity into everyday life, such as active play outdoors with friends, walking some of the way to school or the shops and taking part in PE at school. It’s all about getting back to basics, getting the balance right – lots of activity, sport and play, healthy eating, monitored TV/video game time, balanced study/homework and, last but not least, rest and sleep.

Maura O’Sullivan Ryan, Director, National Certificate in Exercise and Fitness

How much is enough? Children should be active for at least one hour every day. This may not necessarily happen in one session, but could be broken up into 15 minutes active play at school break, 30 minutes bike riding after school and 15 minutes dancing or playing soccer with friends in the evening.

A is for Active

  • Mum and Dad are the best motivators. Set a good example – introduce your kids to activity that’s fun. Take a bit of time at least one evening a week or at weekends when everyone is more relaxed – go walking, biking, dancing, swimming. Puck a sliotar, play badminton in the back garden or play tag in the local park.
  • Finding time can be difficult but concentrate on the positive aspects of exercise. It’s a chance for a family to be together, to share good times and fun.
  •  Praise your children for taking part and for effort. Avoid too much competition – not everyone can win.
  • Encourage your child to be outdoors.
  • Encourage your child to be independent as young as possible – ask them to make their own bed, get themselves drinks, and tidy up after themselves.
  • Walk with your child to and from school, the shops or local video shop.
  • Limit the amount of time your child can spend watching TV and video games.
  • Support sport. Allow children to try out different sports so that they can develop a variety of skills and find activities that they like.

Taken from “Your Child’s Heart” magazine published by Irish heart Foundation ( ‘The Irish Heart Foundation is the national charity fighting heart disease and stroke. We support, educate and train people to save lives, campaign for patients, promote positive health programmes, fund research and provide vital information. We need your support through donations, as a volunteer or on our training courses’