Sorry to all you Mary Poppins fans out there, but a spoonful of sugar is likely to do as much damage as the medicine is doing good. OK, maybe not a single spoonful – but there is a growing wealth of evidence to support the fact that refined or processed sugar is at the root of many modern illnesses.

If you want a healthy and naturally occurring happy pill for your children, you would do far better to encourage them to exercise. Rather than simply being a sweetener to dull the bitter taste of the medicine, exercise releases chemicals that help to heal, strengthen, boost immunity and make the human body feel good.

Whether you are a sporty person or not, and whether you believe me or not – It is a fact!

Get past the idea and experience the evidence

Think back to your own (pre-Xbox, iPhone, Netflix, and all the other sofa-bound distractions) childhood for a moment and remember how much you used to play. Of course, when I say play, I mean run around outside with your friends, go out on bike rides, kick a ball around, go to the park, create outdoor adventures and just enjoy life. For most of us, it made us happy! And the reason for that is a scientifically proven one.

When you partake of exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins into your system. These neurotransmitters are similar to morphine (except that this is a 100% natural and friendly hit) and help to reduce stress, deal with pain and also make you feel happy.

Other chemicals such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are also activated as a result of exercise, all of which contribute to the happy pill effect. It is these naturally occurring boosts that create that look of pure joy on a child’s face when they are running, cycling, playing games or simply having fun.

The problem is that the idea of exercise is rarely as inviting as the reality of it is beneficial.

Start small and prove the point

OK, so to taint the entire population of today’s younger generation with the laziness brush is totally unfair. Doing the work that we do, I know hundreds of children that love sport and can’t wait to get involved in activities. But, my point is that many of those super-active, happy and enthusiastic children that I know, were not always that bothered about exercise. Believe me, we have taken on hundreds of children who ‘seriously didn’t want to be there’ but who (albeit reluctantly at first) have become top performers.

If you have children who are unknowingly-unhappily-transfixed by the latest gadget, why not start small and see if you can motivate a desire for a healthy happiness pill. Find somewhere local that it might be worth walking to; or check out some local sports events; come up with a reward for cycling to school; or see if there are any classes on our website that might catch their eye…

I started this post with a Mary Poppins reference, so let me finish with one last suggestion for generating a buzz from physical activity: Why not go and fly a kite? In the right place, with the right weather conditions, that will keep them occupied, engaged and exhilarated for hours. That lady knew more than just a little bit about happiness after all…