There is no doubt that being active is vital to our overall health. The NHS is now advising that children aged 5-18 do at least an hour of physical activity every day, and adults should aim for at least 150 minutes a week.

It is important to teach your students that exercise and fitness are also vital for their mental health and wellbeing, and not just their physical health.

But exercise doesn’t have to involve a strict gym regime or cycling hundreds of miles a week. Exercise can be simple and fun…as long as they really enjoy what they are doing it won’t be seen as a chore.

There are ways that your students can incorporate everyday activities into daily life, no matter how busy they may be.

Find the right activity

Whether it’s kicking a ball about in the park with their friends or extra-curricular gym classes, try to help your students find an activity they love. 

Even walking the family dog or going shopping with their parents can be seen as step in the right direction. If it is an activity that they enjoy doing, they will be more likely to do it on a regular basis and motivate themselves to continue exercising as they get older and become distracted by work, friends and social activities.

Talk to them about the opportunities for activity and involve, where possible, their parents in the discussion. Exercising as a family is the ideal way to demonstrate the benefits of keeping active and striving for lifelong fitness.

Search for local sporting events, clubs, and resources. Use your research to create a knowledge bank of local opportunities for keeping active and give students and parents access to this information so that they find suitable activities.

If there are sports clubs near you, professional or amateur, they will often have outreach programmes for youth involvement. Take advantage of these opportunities and suggest relevant options to your students.

Start small

Something simple, like walking instead of using public transport or travelling by car, can be the best way to start children on the path to lifelong fitness.

Habits learned early in life are easier to maintain as they get older, and walking everywhere is an excellent habit to cultivate. 

Encourage parents to take their children for walks in parks or in the countryside so that they grow up seeing walking as an entertaining family activity rather than something that you do when you miss the bus.

Cycling is another great way to promote exercise as part of a daily routine. It can also teach children about the highway code and road safety.

Consider introducing a bikeability scheme in your school. Encourage parents to participate so that cycling can be seen as a family activity at weekends and during the school holidays.

Group excercise

Some children find it difficult to motivate themselves to exercise. Group activities and classes can work to motivate those children who enjoy competition and socialising with their friends.

Fun exercises such as Zumba and Pilates are gaining popularity as more people are looking for more entertaining ways of keeping fit. Going to a weekly or daily class will get them into the habit of exercise, and could be a good way to meet other people with similar fitness goals.

Try to break down their exercises into chunks. 60 minutes can seem like a daunting number for every day, especially for kids who are unlikely to sit through an entire hour of physical exercise.

Breaking down this time into 10 minute chunks and shorter, more intense exercises will improve their fitness and leave them plenty of time for other activities.

Healthy eating

Don’t forget that what you put in your body is a contributing factor in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Encourage students to drink plenty of water and carry a reusable water bottle around with them to ensure they don’t become dehydrated. Good hydration can also help them concentrate during classes.

Your students need to know the importance of maintaining a healthy diet for long lifelong fitness. However, this doesn’t mean cutting down on food.

Eating regular and balanced meals will prevent hunger pangs that could lead to snacking on unhealthy foods. Emphasise the importance of a breakfast consisting of long-lasting energy-rich foods such as wholemeal cereals and fruit.

Finally, make it clear that sleep is a vital aspect of health and wellbeing. Let your students know that sufficient hours of sleep are needed to heal the body, and prevent the risk of heart diseases and high blood pressure. In addition, you are more likely to stick to your daily exercises and be more active whilst well rested.