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Opportunity of a lifetime

This isn’t a competition like those you see during the ad breaks on X-Factor: This is something that you have a chance of winning the opportunity to live a long, healthy and happy life.
 
The reason for this article was a conversation I had with a researcher at the Ulster University. We were talking about children’s involvement in sport and why each sport is aiming towards lifelong involvement.
He said we should change the wording of this to an ‘opportunity towards’ lifelong involvement. The whole idea is that sport clubs want you to be part of their organisation for as long as possible. You join at a young age, fall in love with that sport, play all the way through to your adulthood, become a coach or committee member because you still love the sport or club and you have lifelong participation. This is what we call a linear approach but the majority of the time, this doesn’t happen.
 
There could be any number of reasons that you can fall off this linear process. You may not enjoy playing the sport, suffer a serious injury, go to college, get married, have kids or you finish playing and feel lost. What then?
 
For many people that could be it, in terms of physical and mental well-being activity. Life can take over or even worse take control and you spiral downwards until you are overweight, depressed, aches and pains take over and you live a very unhealthy lifestyle.
 
I’m painting a very dark picture but I have seen so many people fall into this trap. Even take some of the most talented sports people out there and look what happens when they retire. Have you ever seen the Brazilian Ronaldo lately? He was probably one of the most talented footballers ever and I can safely say he’s not leading a very active lifestyle.
 
There are a number of reasons this can happen to people. For example, you may have played one sport your whole life and when that’s over, what next? You may have had a negative experience of physical activity as a young child and never got back into any activity. Even worse, you may not even realise that any of this has happened and you fall into a daily unhealthy routine.
 
So what can we do about it? How can we give ourselves and more importantly people around us the opportunity to lead a healthy active lifestyle?
 
Start young
 
It’s vital that we give our young children as many positive experiences of physical activity and overall well-being as we can. Take them outside for walks, let them play in the mud, try many different sports, spend quality time playing with them. This will lay the foundations for children learning to have a lifelong healthy active lifestyle.
 
Never too old
 
You are never too old to pick up a sport, sign up to a gym, enter a race or go out for a walk with friends. Yes, you may not be as fit, able or as strong as you once were, but you can still do it. Get over that mental block of saying to yourself “I can’t do that” or “where would I find the time”. You will be able to do it at your level and you will always find time if it is a priority.
 
Be a child
 
Probably one of the best parts about working with children is that you get to be one yourself. When was the last time you crawled? Do you know the health benefits that come with crawling? If you did you would be on the floor crawling and rolling with your child every night. So go on an adventure, climb trees, throw stones, jump, land, fall, do all of this but most importantly enjoy every minute of it.
 
Try multiple sports
 
This is not age specific but the sooner we expose our children to a variety of sports and not just the ones you played, the better.
 
Experiencing multiple sports gives them the opportunity to develop a range of physical attributes and skills, which will lay the foundations for jumping in and out of any physical activity.
 
It also helps them understand different cultures of sport and society. It will increase their chances of making new friends and when they do chose a sport to play they can always go back to another one, once they are ready to move on. Now read this paragraph over again, but this time from the point of view of an adult playing multiple sports.
 
Good for the mind
 
Moving in anyway releases happy hormones in the body that can help lift you from a bad mood. So not only is this an opportunity to be physically active for the rest of your life, but it can play a huge role in keeping you healthy and more importantly happy.
 
Being involved in a sports club, running group or simply being physically active with a group of mates is brilliant for your mental well-being. Have a group of people to connect and chat with, face-to-face is something that a lot of us don’t get to do often, with the increased use of modern technology. It’s good for the head to get out, get active and connect with others.
 
Find something you love
 
To have the opportunity to lead a healthy, active lifestyle, you must do something you love and when the time comes that you may be no longer able to do what you love you must move on. Try something new and keep trying until you find an activity that you enjoy.
 
The bottom line is that we have the ability to do some form of physical activity no matter how big or small. You may have some physical or mental barriers to overcome at first, but once you start, then you are giving yourself the opportunity towards leading a healthy, happy active lifestyle.
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