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How to raise fit children with a sport they’ll love

gunnell-aug12-kidsexerciseWith obesity levels in children on the rise, it’s important to encourage youngsters to get fit and find a sport that they’ll love for life.

  1. Dance
    If your little one loves nothing more than twirling around the room, arms aloft and toes pointed, then sign her up for a dance class. Ballet is the obvious choice but there are loads to choose from: ballroom and Latin classes, jazz and modern and the big thing  now is street dance.

    Price £5 plus per class, usually paid by the term.

    What is it good for? Dancing is a brilliant form of exercise – your child will gain in fitness, strength and posture. It will help to boost her confidence and this kind of expressive fun is a good way to make new friends.

    Suitable for? All children aged from three to 18 (and not just girls!).

    Find out more To find a class in your area, go to

  2. Rugby and football
    Getting your son (or daughter) up to speed with ball skills and coordination can only be a good thing. You can enrol him at as young as two years of age and classes are usually divided into age groups so he learns different skills as he gets older, eventually leading to match play and tournaments.

    Price Between £6 and £8 per session.

    What is it good for? As well as being a great place to make friends, it also improves balance, enhances hand-eye coordination, increases self confidence and gives children a positive outlook on exercise and fitness. It is also brilliant for building up team-playing skills.

    Suitable for? All children from two and a half to three up to 18 – and that’s not just the boys

    Find out for football clubs near you, or for rugby.

  3. Movement and gymnastics
    You can help to develop your child’s learning and climbing skills from a very young age with movement classes starting at as young as six months. Lessons will use brightly coloured equipment in order to engage her, plus there are music and songs at the end of sessions. As the children get older, they start to learn more complicated and challenging movements as they go into proper gymnastic training  which can eventually lead to competitions and shows.

    Price About £5 a lesson, paid termly.

    What is it good for? Designed to develop children’s agility, coordination, balance and strength, movement classes help with a child’s confidence and self-esteem, particularly as she masters certain moves. It’s also a good way for her to let off steam and, as she gets older, she will learn to be flexible and supple, building up strength and speed.

    Suitable for? From as young as six months up to school age for movement classes and up to 18 for gymnastics.

    Find out or

  4. Swimming
    Gone are the days when swimming lessons came as standard in schools. Although some still offer them, most don’t have them on the curriculum anymore and getting your children taught as soon as possible can be key to them learning this vital skill. Swimming is a brilliant exercise and if you ever go on holiday somewhere hot, you’ll want to know that your kids can enjoy swimming in the pool and the sea without being in too much danger.

    Price About £6 or more per lesson (in a group). Individual lessons cost more.

    What is it good for? It’s a great aerobic exercise and doesn’t place added stress or impact on growing bones and joints. Swimming also increases endurance and develops stamina as children learn to swim longer distances. Learning in a group is fun for kids and gives them a chance to make friends as well. This is a skill for life that’s best learned young.

    Suitable for? You can dunk your baby in a swimming pool at as young as four months. Kids can learn to swim very early. But if you leave it until they’re four or five, they’re better at listening and have a bit more strength.

    Find out

  5. Tennis
    British tennis is on the up, with top British players coming through the rankings and competing in Grand Slam tournaments. But even if your child just likes bashing the ball across the net, tennis is a great sport for training hand-eye coordination and for a cardiovascular workout. Plus, it’s great fun and sociable for him.

    Price Around £5 per lesson.

    What is it good for? Tennis teaches children how to compete as individuals and it will improve your child’s all-round fitness levels, physical coordination and teach mental discipline as well. On top  of all that, the sport provides plenty of opportunities for social interaction and can encourage team work, if your child gets into playing doubles.

    Suitable for? All children aged from four to 18.

    Find out or

This article was first published in at home with Sally Gunnell in August 2012. [Read the digital edition here]

Image: Shutterstock

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