Children, exercise to score – in exams!

The other day, the L&M came home looking bewildered. ‘The kids can’t bend and touch their feet!’ he said incredulously. He has been busy organizing International Yoga Day celebration in some neighbourhood schools and he was frankly astonished that young kids could have such inflexible bodies. ‘Many children can’t bend without moaning and groaning, can’t sit in the simple cross-legged position (not the more difficult Padmasana, mind you), and the majority can’t even squat!’ he cried, shaking his head in disbelief. For someone in his mid-sixties, who is active and has a flexible body, this was unbelievable.

It is actually not so uncommon to find physically unfit children today. Obesity, juvenile diabetes, even heart ailments are getting more and more common among our young. Add to that unhealthy eating habits and sedentary lifestyles and you have the recipe for disaster staring at the kids born in this century. Most of them avoid playing games. And when they do, parents are particular about them getting into some ‘sport’ rather than robustly kicking a ball, boisterously chasing each other or playing games for the pure fun and enjoyment they provide.

The importance of physical exercise and games can’t be overemphasised. They not only freshen up the mind but also provide increased supply of vital oxygen to the tired brain. They give the brain some respite and help it regain its energy for studies. One story the L&M never tires of telling is how he and his friend would sit and work out problems for a couple of hours and then indulge in a bout of vigorous wrestling on the floor before resuming their studies again! He swore that it made them feel refreshed. This was one lesson he kept drilling into the heads of the boys.

I remember my elder son not missing a single day of games all through high school. When he was in the 10th, he would bitterly complain about how none of his friends came to play, cooped up as they were in their homes, studying….In frustration, he would wheel out his bicycle and cycle for hours before coming home flushed and happy. It was only when he came to the final year he had no time as he commuted for several hours every day to attend school and then coaching classes. But he more than got his share of exercise, commuting as he did in the crowded DTC buses of Delhi!

Contrary to what parents and even children believe, games and physical exercise actually aid good academic performance. Extracurricular activities that are creative are good too. While organised sporting activities like skating/skateboarding, swimming, karate, etc. are fine, they need to be supplemented with some games that are played with complete abandon and for fun. They certainly are no replacement for these.

Our building sent many children this year to the Board exams, both X and XII and all of them about six in all – have scored above 90. One of them, who lost both his father and grandfather within a few months of each other – one just before and the other during his exams, has even cleared his IIT-JEE with a very good rank and is waiting for his counselling. What makes the achievement of these children – including the last mentioned – unique is that they are all multi-faceted youngsters. Two of the boys play percussion instruments and do a fantastic job. They play games every day, even during the dreaded Board exams, take part in cultural programmes, which involves practice, run errands for their parents and more. I am sure they are gadget-savvy and play games on their tabs and computers too, but their focus is not just limited to them. Every time I look at one of them, it brings a wide smile of joy to my lips. These super achiever kids are also old world in that they greet elders, help them with their heavy bags if they see someone struggling with them and are athletic, robust, happy and full of life.

So when I see children who are obese, surly and inactive, it pains me. While it is part their fault that they are physically unfit, the major part of the blame goes to the parents who either don’t realise the importance of physical activities and games, or feel satisfied that their children are such whiz kids with their gadgets and gizmos and are so ‘intelligent’ thanks to their Google ‘knowledge’ (shouldn’t it be information?), which they proudly brag that their children possess. Even if these children perform well in academics and become toppers, they are at best single dimensional figures and no patch on children who stand head over shoulders over them physically and mentally with their well-rounded personalties.

It is high time that parents and children realised that exercise is as important in making intelligent and bright students as studies. One of the biggest complaints from both children and their parents is lack of time and a heavy load of schoolwork for not playing games. I want to ask them where they find the time for their smartphone activities and TV watching? The last two activities, far from relaxing mind and body only make them more fatigued. Instead even half an hour of some form of exercise – even if it is just stretching or jumping up and down on the spot would do more to relax both muscles and nerves.

And for those who complain that there are no playgrounds to play games, how about running up the stairs or doing some physical work? After all, tower running is an international sport and every building has hundreds of stairs!! And then there are the yogasanas, simple one like surya namaskar, bending and stretching asanas and pranayam. Earlier brahmacharis (students) were required to do these as part of their daily routines, but of course, traditions are there only be mocked and then junked, aren’t they?

International Yoga Day might come just once a year, but for once, it is not an empty ritual, but a reminder about the wonderful gift that India has given the world. What is more, India has not even claimed IPR over it, as pointed out by our PM!

Isn’t it a shame that we junk an ancient form of spiritual exercise as hype while huffing and puffing on treadmills and tummy-trimmers in air-conditioned gyms? How snobbish can we get?

Homepage image: fablefeed.com

22 comments

  1. I am from the old school.
    Get your children off from the Internet up to a stage,age.
    You are leaving no time for them for exercises.
    Let them practice Yoga and see the difference.

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    1. However busy, an hour for games and fun can’t hurt. And yes, get them off the internet! yoga needs to be taught properly in schools else it is no use.

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  2. I think many of the activities that we did in our childhood seem very outdated now and unexciting to the youngsters as well. Besides their study loads have increased. We try to tell there kids to go out in the evenings even if it is for cycling. Luckily, we have gated roads which are safe to cycle but infrastructure is a real problem for many children. With classes etc. they hardly get time either. As far as Yoga is concerned, gymming seems more exciting now to youngsters. I agree that lack of activity is a real issue for kids these days. That and the distraction by gadgets and social media that we didn’t have.

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    1. The reason these activities go out of fashion is because they are allowed to languish and then die. I have a post in the making about these. Will wait for your comments on that one!

      Look at how kabaddi has become a prime time sport thanks to someone’s bright idea to turn it into a cash cow too. It is about time that someone picked up these indigenous games and gave them a glamorous make over without waiting for some foreign country to do it and the import it back! In my opinion gyms should be actively discouraged for children, as they can build wrong muscles and can cause more harm than good. When they are structured to suit the children, they do no good, but are just for the status. As I have related, even today there are parents and children who play normal games, have fun and yet score high in school. In fact this bunch of kids in my building inspired this post. They have the same work load, commute to school, take music lessons and also play! Ultimately parents are the ones who set the tone for the entire thing.

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  3. It is difficult to get kids to play outdoors today when there is so much to do indoors before the screens nowadays. I am myself prey to it, having spent most of my holidays indoors either with a book or with a laptop. I think the best thing to do is enroll them into some sort of sports clubs with swimming, badminton,dance, aerobics etc. anything that suits their interest. They will soon discover how fun it is and it will do them good too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are indoor games and there are outdoor games, but when children are stuck to their online fun, and parents allow them to do it in the name or relaxation, I think it is unhealthy. Surely an hour of games can’t harm any child – even one burdened by schoolwork? I ‘m particularly against organised sports unless a child is really interested in it. Else it soon become another compulsory activity without any joy in it. By the way, did you play games as a kid? 🙂

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      1. I agree to that; but children could pick a sport of their interest and give it a shot, instead of staying online. I used to go out to play every evening until we shifted from home when I was eleven. Then the frequency reduced. I did go for karate classes instead though. 🙂

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  4. I have seen parents asking their kids not to play in sun! My sons go to gym nowadays, but no other physical activity. Elder son never liked playing outdoor games, but was a bookworm. Younger one used to play a lot. He used to come home at 7 pm sometimes and I complained to the school principal asking him to send off the children home at least by 5.30 but he said ‘let them play…this is the playing age. You and I can’t play at our age’! In my complex 3 girls have become obese and are going to one ‘power gym’ and are on ‘only juice’ diet! They wrote 10th exam just now! It is going to be like this in most of the houses with only one or max. two children. They are pampered and the parents are reluctant to compel the children to do anything.

    As usual I loved the way you have written this post.

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    1. I can visualise the scene you have described. sandhya. When children get free time they want to spend it online or on their smartphones and parents tut-tut about their school work load! I have seen younger children in my complex taking the lift to go up to the first floor!! The older ones are all active and playing and doing chores, but the next batch of younger kids are pampered as you point out. Even parents are changing that way 🙂 Obesity is the bane of this generation and they are either not bothered or go on fad diets as you have pointed out.

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  5. That’s right, most of the children are busy with their computer and Mobil, they play games on it or just spend time in chatting. Parents should encourage their children to go out and play games with friends, this will freshen their minds and they will feel more active, if everyone includes yoga in their everyday life this will be additional benefit, it takes sometime but difference can be felt.

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    1. When we were young schools had one day in the week for PT and at least two or three periods a week for games/PT. We did exercises, drill and played games. It used to be fun. These days they have made the children sit in the class and mug up lessons all the time they are in school. And when they come home, they are sent to tuitions and made to do the homework. Even if they took out half an hour out of all these activities to make the kids play, it would make them more alert and active. Yoga is of course the best form of exercise, but unless done properly can do more harm than good!

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  6. vijayaa108 · · Reply

    You have expressed precisely what I have been telling family and friends over and over again!
    We have lost ourselves in these newly re-invented glamorous games of the imported from western shores.
    We have uprooted ourselves from our ancient spiritual wisdom that gave light to the world!
    Sadly this is reflected in every facet of our lives in our Bharatavarsham!

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  7. It is an interesting read though i cannot blame the kids for not exercising .There are many extenuating reasons.The circumstances that prevailed a few decades back are not there now.Education has become highly competitive involving long hours of commuting and loads of study or work to be done at home.Running up and down the stairs or doing surya namaskar are no exciting options for present day kids.May be on weekends they would like to dance before tv with some programs specific for this.
    I think they exercise at gyms once they start working

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    1. Oh KP, it is still not out of fashion to play games, though many parents themselves discourage their children by saying constantly that they have a heavy academic load. The kids that live in my building are also tech savvy kids who not only score high in academics but find the time to play games and do other things besides. They were the inspiration for this post, incidentally. One reason that I can think of is that nothing that doesn’t cost money has no real value for both parents and kids today. It is very sad indeed.

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  8. Couldn’t agree with you more Zephyr. It surprises me too when I see kids who just dont want to move. Their idea of games is ‘computer games’. They’ve never climbed a tree (not their fault though), never run up an down a mountain merely for the exhilaration of it. When you ask them to fetch something from the grocery shop nearby, they refuse to budge until they have a scooter at hand.

    Oh and about the ‘India has not even claimed IPR over it, as pointed out by our PM!’, he said India hasn’t claimed IPR on yoga, YET. 😀

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    1. And you know, we have ads like the Kellogs ad where the mother and son talk about learning, playing and winning games – video ones, if you please – with the help of the said cereal. Bah! As if being sedentary needs endorsement too!

      Oh, did our PM say that? I must have missed that YET, yet 🙂 Good for India that he has his presence of mind intact under any situation!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh I hate those ads. In fact I detest all electronic equipment ads that are targeted at kids. The way they carry on one would think one’s child would be the dumbest kid on the block if one didn’t buy the silly contraption.

        Oh yes! This PM is good for India. 😀 😀

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        1. The whole idea of the advertisers is to make the kids feel inadequate unless they used what was advertised. Don’t you hate the ads for toothpastes and hand wash liquids?

          Yes, the PM is good for the country 🙂

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  9. I feel we need to do a mix of Yoga, and go to Gym too…each has their own benefits.

    I do Yoga aggressively over weekends, and whatever i can do over weekdays. I started going to gym too few days back.

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    1. Going to gym might be beneficial, but getting fresh air and some uninhibited exercise is way way superior. For instance, instead of using the stepper in the gym, why not take the stairs at home and work? Besides, gym activities have to be carefully prescribed and followed under supervision, else there would be tragedies like the one I remember reading about: A young man of 28 began going to the gym and on the very second day had a cardiac arrest on the treadmill. Turned out, he had a heart condition of which he was not aware and the gym had not bothered to find out. Children certainly should avoid such exercises and stick to plain horseplay and boisterous games.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, you are right…that’s why I do a mix of both.

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        1. As adults we learn the value of exercise, but what about our children? Unless they are sent out to play, we will have a whole generation of obese and inactive kids!

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