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Kids’ sports: finding the balance between too little and too much

New Zealand’s Ministry of Health recommends that children and young people aged 5-17 should be doing at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. 

Currently, around 50 per cent of kids prefer a more sedentary lifestyle, with more than two hours of screen time per day, according to recent stats. And only 10 per cent of secondary school students are meeting the current recommendations of 60 minutes of physical activity per day.

On the other hand, some of our kids might be doing too much exercise; particularly those who play sports simultaneously in school and in national or provincial teams, which can leave them susceptible to injury and burnout.

‘But kids are young – they’ve got bundles of energy!’
They may be young and energetic, but their skeletons are still immature. So, while they’re building strength through sports, their bodies are also trying to produce muscle and bone. This is an uphill struggle if the body isn’t getting enough water, sleep or healthy food. 

So how much sport is too much for our kids?
It’s hard to say because every child’s physical strength and fitness levels are different. Plus, injuries like strains and bruises are just part and parcel of contact sports. But these wounds can be very painful and put your child out of action. Osteopaths can help relieve your child’s immediate pain and enable their body to function better and recover more quickly. 

And what about burnout?
The tell-tale signs of burnout in young people include disturbed sleep and a reluctance to go to an activity they once loved. To avoid strains and fatigue, make sure they gradually build their level of activity up. 

If you have an active kid, recovery time is crucial
With TV and video games coaxing kids to lead sedentary lives, it’s never been more important to encourage your kids to lead an active lifestyle. But, if they’re already active, it’s also vital to encourage rest days which, contrary to the way they sound, don’t have to be spent sitting on the sofa.

If your child plays a lot of the same sport, rest days give the muscles groups and joints time to recuperate. On these days, try doing a gentle activity – like swimming, a leisurely bike ride or a walk in the park. And if your child experiences discomfort, consult an osteopath.


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