Exercise discipline reaps rewards

Modern kids don't get nearly enough exercise.
Modern kids don't get nearly enough exercise.
If you want to get fit, you need loads of self-discipline – there are no two ways about it. If you've always been a couch potato and need to start training, sticking to an exercise programme can be particularly difficult.

Here is yet another reason why regular exercise is good for you: the self-discipline required to get fit will spill over to other spheres of your life and will improve your functioning in areas not remotely associated with fitness. This counts for children too.

"Regular exercise improves concentration, one's ability to focus and to be goal-directed," says Ilse Terblanche, Cape Town psychologist.

The logic is simple: Those who manage to become fit have had to set a series of small goals and had to develop a plan to achieve them.

"Each time you manage to stick to the plan and achieve a goal, you enforce your belief that you are capable of succeeding. You reap the benefits of your hard work and learn that self-discipline really pays off. If you have more trust in your abilities in one area, it helps you to accept challenges in other areas of your life," Terblanche says.

The logic counts for kids too
If you're a parent, it's important to encourage your child to participate in sport because of what it teaches the child.

According to Terblanche, a strict schedule and a structure that has been established by other people will teach a child to get used to discipline from an early age. Most sports for children involve rules and boundaries.

"At a later stage, it becomes easier for the child to internalise the external discipline," Terblanche says.

Participating in sport will also help develop your child's motor skills. These skills involve using the small and large muscles of the body. Studies have shown that poor motor development inhibits a child's ability to advance to abstract thought.

"Good motor development is the foundation for higher intellectual, psychological and social functions," according to the organisers of Playball, a sport and movement development programme aimed at young children. Self-discipline can be included in this list of essential functions that a child needs to learn.

Exercise also improves muscle tone, which has an impact on a child's ability to pay attention and to concentrate on school work.

What to do

  • Play with your child from an early age and encourage at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Remember to make exercise fun.
  • Also encourage different activities and participation in organised, group sporting activities, like rugby, soccer or netball, when your child reaches the appropriate age.
  • Teach your child to commit to training schedules for a whole season.

- (Carine van Rooyen, Health24)

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