Make Exercise A Part Of Your Family Life by Lizl Kotz
As a parent we want nothing more than to safeguard our children into adulthood and even long after we are gone. We go to great lengths to protect our children from predators and getting hurt. Yet it seems we overlook passing on a fundamental practice that has been shown to offer tremendous protection from mental and physical disease. The practice of movement.
Making exercise a part of family life is a gift our children will carry with them for the rest of their lives. We don’t pass on the love for exercise by signing our children up for a tennis lesson or lacrosse league. Children instead learn to love exercise by watching parents make exercise a part of their own lives and by exercising alongside them. The beauty of exercise is that it does not discriminate against income levels, race or ability. There is so much freedom in what exercise looks like and where it takes place.
Studies citing that exercise is one of the best ways we can protect our bodies and brains from disease are plentiful. According to Wendy Suzuki, Professor of Neural Science at NY University, exercise is the most transformative thing you can do for your brain today. A single workout can improve focus that will last for at least two hours. She also states that studies show exercise to ameliorate depressive and anxiety symptoms with no negative side effects. According to Dr. Suzuki, the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex are the areas in the brain most susceptible to neurodegenerative disease and cognitive decline in aging. By making exercise a part of your child’s life, their hippocampus and prefrontal cortex increase in size and strength. These diseases and age-related cognitive decline then take longer to take its toll.
I am certain that if there was a pill promising all of the aforementioned benefits parents would get the prescription. Good news, no prescription needed. Exercise is free to all and unlike most medications, there are no negative side effects. In addition, exercise is a great opportunity to facilitate conversation with your child. Toronto psychologist, Dr. Kate Hays uses exercise in psychotherapy and states that physical activity encourages openness, disclosure and insight into problems. Next time you feel that there is an ocean separating you from your teen, ask him to go surf some waves and get stoked together.