Nicole Fuller advocates why we should be encouraging youth to be active and to run.
My own running has given me countless benefits and opportunities, from travelling the world to a full athletic scholarship from an American University. The focus and discipline of running has spilled over into many other aspects of my life. But, most importantly, because of my fitness, due to my continuous running, I have made a remarkable recovery from breast cancer.
Why youth should exercise
I honestly feel that it is vital for our youth to exercise. Whether it be for fun, for school or at higher levels. Exercise helps improve physical health, boosts immunity and improves mental health e.g. improving confidence and self-esteem. It also helps with weight loss. It instills discipline which spills over into academics, and I think, most importantly, it can help teenagers to become more aware of a healthy lifestyle, and to stay away from alcohol, smoking and drugs.
Not a fan of compulsory sports
I am not a fan of forcing children and teenagers into doing sports activities that they are not comfortable with. Numerous schools enforce compulsory sport which is controversial, and I feel it can be detrimental to children. There are enough sports and activities to please all children and teenagers, whether they are team or individual sports. Some children are team players while others are more individual players. Not everyone fits into the same box. It is essential for parents and coaches to help each child find a sport or activity that they will enjoy, have fun and reap the benefits of.
Current research, from Europe, Canada and the USA, is suggesting that children of today are forced into specialised sports too early. Adding that they are under huge pressure from coaches, schools, clubs and parents to perform. This leads to burnout at a young age and puts children off sport for life. It is vital that ability, temperament and personality are considered in how physical activity can benefit youth in a positive way, and that it is carried over into adulthood in a positive way.
A research article in The Lancet mentions how aerobic exercise, especially running, releases endorphins into the blood stream. This helps keep cancer cells at bay. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you must go out and run The Comrades Marathon, but 30 or 40 mins of easy running or brisk walking five times per week provide the above-mentioned benefit.
Try a local parkrun
Local parkruns are great to promote family health. Children and teenagers can join parents or friends, and bring their pets. It is a 5km run or walk in a safe, controlled environment and if you are signed-up with Discovery Vitality, you can earn more points.
MEET OUR EXPERT – Nicole Fuller
Nicole Fuller is a breast cancer survivor, mother, former Elite athlete, and coaches athletics for Fitness From Africa. She received Springbok colours for track-, cross country- and road running.