Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle in Our Children | SPD - Singapore
Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle in Our Children
Recognising the need to cultivate healthy lifestyles in children, SPD’s physiotherapist Barry Faulkner highlights ways in which parents can help their young grow up happy and healthy.
A healthy lifestyle is, in many ways, one of the most important things one can cultivate, and never too young to start. In fact, it can help children with their general well-being, improve their performance in school, boost emotional well-being and mental health, reduce the risks of medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension when they get older, and even reduce the occurrence of myopia.
Here are a few ways parents can get their children to adopt healthy lifestyle habits.
Physical activities play a huge part in achieving a healthy lifestyle. A pre-schooler needs at least three hours of physical activities in a day, according to Australia’s Department of Health. Going to the playground, swimming, walking, running, cycling with the family or dancing are some physical activities parents can engage their children in.
There are many benefits that are linked to physical activities, such as developing motor skills, improving cognitive development which helps in school, maintaining a healthy body weight, building strong bones and muscles and reducing the risk of chronic disease in the future.
It is important to note that physical activities are important for everyone, including those with disabilities. Parents should seek medical advice on the kinds of activities suitable for their children if they have any special needs or health conditions.
To maintain a healthy lifestyle, healthy eating is a key factor. A healthy meal should consist half of fruits and vegetables, a quarter in carbohydrates such as rice or noodles, and the remaining quarter in protein such as meat or tofu. Children should eat at least five portions of different fruits and vegetables per day, if possible. When eating out, choose foods that are endorsed by Health Promotion Board’s Healthier Choice Symbol as they indicate healthier food options.
Reducing the amount of sugar intake in our diet is also another step towards a healthier lifestyle. When possible, avoid sugary drinks and snacks. A healthy diet can be cultivated from young, and it never hurts to start early.
A healthy lifestyle also consists of constant hydration. This helps the child avoid dehydration, especially when engaging in physical activities on hot days. As Singapore has a tropical climate and is prone to days that are extremely hot, the habit of staying hydrated is of utmost importance.
Children should get 10 to 14 hours of sleep every day. As they grow older, they will require less and less.
Parents or caregivers can limit the screen time their children get. A child under 18 months of age should have no screen time at all while one who is slightly over 18 months of age can be limited to one hour of screen time a day. As the child grows older, more screen time can be allocated.
National Physical Activity Recommendations for Children 0-5 Years (Australia 2010)
SingHealth website [PatientCare/Conditions&Treatment/Sleep(child)]
AAP COUNCIL ON COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA. Media and Young Minds. Pediatrics. 2016;138(5):e20162591