It is the age-old dilemma for parents of young children, isn’t it?


How do you find the balance between protecting them from harm and letting them learn valuable life lessons for themselves? Where is the line between an open door ‘you can talk to us about anything’ approach and the disapproval of bad behaviour? How do you encourage the freedom to choose while sharing your years of been-there-done-that experience and wisdom?


But what if YOU don’t even know the answers?


But what if the parent is wrong?


Sorry to be blunt, but most parents are wrong when it comes to physical activity for their children.


That is not just my opinion, by the way; recent studies of 26,000 primary and secondary school children, commissioned by the Youth Sports Trust, revealed some startling information. The data said that 89% of the boys and 93% of the girls were getting less than 60 minutes of exercise each day. But that is just the data: add some other parameters and context, and one of the source problems begins to emerge.


The guidelines given by the Government appointed Chief Medical Officer for primary and secondary school children is that they should all be getting at least 60 minutes of physical exercise every single day. The much-publicised obesity issue, as well as other general medical and mental health problems, have all been strongly linked with this national pandemic of a lack of exercise. Should we blame the children for their laziness, or does the responsibility lie elsewhere?


Another revelation from the Youth Sports Trust research was that less than a quarter of parents, of the children in the study, were aware of the 60-minute target. So, is ignorance bliss? Or is it a health timebomb waiting to explode?


Perspective, context and a little knowledge going a long way


As parents, we all know how difficult it is to tell our children what to do – even when we are absolutely convinced of what is good for them – or when we are following very senior medical professionals’ guidelines. Part of the problem with giving good advice is that it is often seen as an opinion, rather than a fact. Children tend to forget that their parents were teenagers too – once. And what they don’t know is that when their parents were younger, we had no choice but to do more exercise – because ‘online everything’ hadn’t been invented.


So, while the perspective and the context may have changed, making parents jobs a little more difficult, the one advantage that parents can utilise is getting educated themselves. Instead of having less than 25% of adults knowing that children should have more than 60 minutes of exercise every day – the ones of us who are informed should actively spread the word. Perhaps surprisingly, even within schools (among teachers), the report suggested that the understanding of this critical information was sadly lacking.


The fact is that children will not always listen to their parents as readily as they would other adults. But if we spread the word about the need for regular exercise (especially its health, wealth and mind benefits), encourage the conversation and raise the awareness – perhaps a few more of our children will realise (for themselves) what is good for them.


A little knowledge goes a long way!