True or False? 5 Myths That Are Getting in the Way of Your Child’s Health.

6 min read

It is very easy to fall into the trap of believing false information; 45% of Singaporeans have believed false information online relating to health and medicine in 2020 [1]. It is important for parents to be well-informed about health, given that they are one of the most influential people in their children’s lives. Parents also play a huge role in promoting an active lifestyle for them [2]. Find out if the following statements are true or false, and learn how you can improve your child’s and your health.

Statement 1: Only people who are overweight need to exercise. True or false?

False! Whether you are overweight, underweight, or in between, exercise is integral for your overall health. Many fitness advertisements target people who are unsatisfied with their appearance to take advantage of their insecurities to promote their programmes or products. They reinforce unrealistic beauty standards and cause many people to be motivated to engage in physical activities solely for appearance [3,4]. However, exercise that is solely motivated by physical appearance can lead to unhealthy relationships with exercise and low self-esteem, even in young children [5,6,18]. Believing that exercising is only necessary for overweight people can also trivialise its benefits, such as stress relief and chronic disease prevention [7,8].

 Tip 1: Promote other benefits of exercise aside from physical appearance. For example, physical activities like playing ball can help improve children’s motor skills, such as throwing and catching. This can also motivate them to continue exercising to get better [23].

Statement 2: Preschoolers don’t need to exercise. True or false?

False. Healthy lifestyle habits are most effective when developed at a young age and proven to delay and prevent the development of many physical and mental illnesses such as heart disease and depression. Children who exercise are also more likely to continue exercising as an adult [9,10,11]. If you have a child below 7, it is recommended that they engage in at least 180 minutes of physical activity daily [12,13]. 

Tip 2: You don’t have to get your child to complete the whole 180 minutes at a time. Split it up throughout the day and include a variety of  age-appropriate physical activities like cycling, chasing bubbles outdoors, and jumping on a trampoline (with supervision, of course!) [21].

Statement 3: No pain, no gain. True or false?

False. The phrase “no pain, no gain” has been used since the 1980s as an exercise motto that promises better rewards for the price of hard or even painful work and we still hear it today. However, having this as your motto may cause you to overtrain and even injure yourself. Thinking that exercise must be painful to be beneficial can also deter you and your child from exercising altogether [17]. But here’s the good news, exercise doesn’t have to be painful.

Tip 3: When choosing what physical activities to engage in, be sure to select those you and your child enjoy and be careful not to overexert yourselves. These will help keep you as well as your child motivated to continue exercising [12,13,18]. Fun and age-appropriate exercises include playing games like tag, non-competitive sports like swimming, and dancing to music [21]. You can also do these activities as a family to grow closer together and further encourage your children to be more active [13]. 

Statement 4: Children are naturally energetic and active. There’s no need to spend time getting them to exercise. True or false? 

False. In Singapore, 8 to 12-year-olds spend an average of 35 hours a week glued to their screens for entertainment alone, 3 more hours than the global average [19]. The more time children spend on a screen, the less time they spend in physical play, lowering their physical activity levels [20]. 

Tip 4: To encourage your child to exercise more, you can limit their screen time and provide them with active toys, like sports equipment and push toys [12,13,18]. Children aged 2 to 5 should have no more than one hour a day of screen time with adult supervision [22] and are encouraged to head outdoors to run around and play [21].

Statement 5: Short exercise sessions are as beneficial as long ones. True or false?

True! Young parents are often tied up with work and taking care of children, making it hard for them to commit to an exercise regime. But here’s the good news, the minimum length of an exercise session to achieve health benefits is only 10 minutes. You can perform these short sessions multiple times a week, or even a few sessions a day. These short workouts will accumulate throughout the week, helping you achieve the recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity a week [14]. However, some parents may believe that exercise takes up too much time and end up using the excuse of not having time for exercise [14]. This may influence their children to be inactive as well. Studies have shown that children with active parents are more likely to be active as well [15,16]. But don’t worry, there’s still time to change and reading this article can be your first step!

Tip 5: If you’re a beginner, gradually work your way up to the recommended guideline. Remember to warm up and cool down for 5 to 10 minutes before and after every exercise session [14]. You can also find tons of follow-along warm-ups, cooldowns, and workouts online if you don’t know where to start!

Remember to be positive when talking about exercise to your child and don’t be too strict about getting them to engage in physical activities. Using exercising in the context of shame or punishment could make it less enjoyable and deter them from continuing to exercise in future [18]. It is also important to note that if you or your child is an individual with limitations, disabilities, or chronic conditions, follow your doctor’s advice on the volume and types of physical activities to perform. Lastly, don’t believe everything you read online or hear from others; always fact check!

So, how many did you get right? Let us know in the comments below!

This article is written in support of the Health Promotion Board’s health messages.

Written by Hannah Ong
Illustrations by Jia Qi

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