Shaken Baby Syndrome

A large number of child deaths are reported in South Africa each year. A lot of deaths relate to neglect, abuse or murder. Despite this, there's a knowledge gap in relation to understanding the issue....

Amniotic fluid problems

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Choosing a pre-school

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Newborn reflexes

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Pelvic floor exercises

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Babies cry because they need to communicate something and most parents, especially new moms, find it distressing to see or hear an unhappy baby. In time, you will learn to recognize the various causes...

Antenatal Classes

Antenatal classes are informative sessions provided to prepare expecting parents for the birth of their child and the early days of being a parent.Most antenatal classes are run by Midwives and occasi...


The Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 was launched on the 11 May 2011. It is a global declaration of war against road crashes and fatalities. According to Mr Sibusiso Ndebele, MP Minister of ...

  • Shaken Baby Syndrome

    Tuesday, 21 July 2015 16:28
  • Amniotic fluid problems

    Thursday, 14 May 2015 12:54
  • Choosing a pre-school

    Friday, 10 April 2015 17:50
  • Newborn reflexes

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:49
  • Mastitis

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:41
  • Pelvic floor exercises

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:20
  • Colic

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:11
  • Antenatal Classes

    Monday, 03 June 2013 09:34
  • Strap-in-the-Future

    Thursday, 30 June 2011 13:52

World Move for Health Day

May 10 is World Move for Health Day, created by the World Health Organization, to promote physical well being. The South African slogan for the campaign is; “Vuka South Africa, Move for your health". The initiative encourages all South Africans to take responsibility for their health, by engaging in cost effective physical activities such as walking, regular exercise and other extramural activities. In order to improve and maintain health, at least 30 minutes of physical activity should be performed daily. A study conducted by the WHO in 2002, found that a lack of physical activity, is one of the main contributory risk factors to chronic diseases of lifestyle such as cardiovascular, diabetes, obesity, colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, depression and anxiety. Furthermore, the South African Youth Risk Behaviour Survey (YRBS), conducted among grade 8-10 pupils, showed that 17, 2% of adolescents are overweight, and more females (5.3%) than males (2.2%) were obese.

Unfortunately due to changes and advances in the world we live in, such as television, video games, and computers, there has been a decline in physical activity amongst children and it may be challenging to get your child active. According to a recent study in the American College of Sports Medicine's Health and Fitness Journal, children do not engage in enough physical activity due to intrapersonal, interpersonal, institutional and environmental barriers. Preferring to engage in other activities, such as playing video games and being fearful of being teased about their weight are both regarded as interpersonal barriers. Intrapersonal barriers may include friends who are inactive or family obligations. A heavy workload at school is an example of an institutional barrier. Environmental barriers could include poor weather conditions or a lack of transportation.

There are several important reasons why children should exercise and numerous creative ways, in which to encourage them to do it.

A lack of exercise can have detrimental effects on a child's life:

1) Sleep deprivation - a lack of exercise, can lead to sleep deprivation, which in turn may lead to depression and overeating. Too little sleep has a negative impact on your child's energy levels and they may find it difficult to perform their daily tasks.

2) Self perception - self image affects posture or the way people carry themselves, eye contact and ultimately how they are received by their peers. A lack of exercise not only fosters laziness but may make your child feel physically inadequate. Low self esteem affects the way in which your child interacts with others.

3) Misconceptions - society defines beauty or places a higher value on those who are thin and attractive. Athletic children are often perceived as being healthy and attractive, and as a result, smarter too. In contrast, obese children are stigmatized as being lazy and slow, both physically and mentally.

4) Obesity and complications - obesity places a strain on the respiratory and circulatory systems. Being overweight makes physical activities tiring and less enjoyable. Ultimately it can lead to antisocial behaviour and an aversion to exercising all together.

5) Weakened immune system - exercising regularly helps to build a healthy immune system. If you allow your child to avoid exercise he/she may become prone to more frequent illness and infections. This may equate to; days missed at school, inattentiveness in class and an overall lack of energy when dealing with daily tasks.

6) Deficient motor skills - A lack of exercise during critical periods of growth and development may have an impact on the development of your child's motor skills and hand-eye co-ordination. This can have a daunting effect on your child's confidence in later years, when trying to fit in with his classmates, such as when playing team sports.

How to use technology to encourage your child to exercise:

1) Go online and research new gaming consoles. Look for those that require your child to move around, in order to make the technology work, for example the Nintendo Wii. For younger children, Smart Cycle, requires them to ride a bicycle while watching a television screen.

2) Take your child to the local arcade and look for games like Dance, Dance, Revolution, a game where kids learn how to dance. This provides a great, fun workout.

3) Purchase board games that promote exercise, whether it be walking, running or dancing. This allows kids to have fun and get active too.

4) Allow your child to put on their favourite music and dance.

5) Buy your child a pedometer, a device that measures the amount of steps you take in any time period. Have a competition to see who can do the most steps in one day.

Encourage backyard sports or outdoor play:

Many children have easy access to television, video games and computers, and these activities often replace playing outside. A lack of outdoor exercise and play has lead to health concerns and children being deprived of important social interactions and imaginative stimulation that play an integral role in childhood development.

According to the Mayo Clinic, obesity is the result of eating too much while simultaneously exercising too little. One solution is to eat a healthy, balanced diet and engage in more physical activity. Becoming active does not necessarily require money and can involve the whole family. Go into your backyard, to a park or recreational centre and engage in sporting activities that your family enjoys, be it soccer, cricket, hula hooping, or even basic tag.

Sending your children to play outside also helps them build relationships with others, work through arguments and follow directions. Furthermore, it encourages them to engage in imaginative play because most backyard games come with few rules or guidance. Simple play allows children to create an environment all on their own, where they can set their own rules and come up with names of their own, without the interference or guidelines from parents and teachers. Backyard sports have not changed over the years and are suitable for the whole family. While playing kick the can, follow the leader, red rover or treasure hunts, children will break a sweat and adults get the opportunity to reminisce about their own childhoods. As far as safety is concerned; supervise your children and take a few safety precautions, such as covering areas around swing sets with sand, packing away all garden tools and equipment, installing a pool net, and remaining within earshot of the children.

Ideas for children under 5:

Most toddlers and pre-schoolers, are permanently on the go and often don't need too much encouragement to be active. It is up to parents to channel this energy effectively.

* For children under the age of 3, activities that involve parental participation are best. Enrol your child in an activity that involves interaction with other children and physical activity. Options to consider are Moms and Tots or Clamber Club.

* Pre-schoolers are more likely to become involved in an activity with parents just watching. Popular choices include, music and movement and mini-gymnastics. These activities foster a variety of skills, such as climbing and jumping, balance, agility and encourage co-ordination. They allow your child to build muscles in a fun way. Swimming is a good option too.

* Young children often don't know their own limits and may find it difficult to wind down. Ensure that there is a balance between times when your child is expending physical activity and those where they quieten down and recharge their batteries.

Activities for older children:

* There are a wide range of after school activities for older children to choose from, ranging from soccer and tennis, to ice skating and horse riding, to karate and netball. The more activities your child tries, the more likely they are, to find one that they enjoy. Playing a variety of sports helps to foster different skills. However, these trial periods may be frustrating for parents, as well as expensive. To minimize false starts, ensure that your child is really keen and knows what’s involved in the activity of interest. Encourage your child to watch a session before signing up. This will also allow you to check out how well the activity is run. For example, do the children seem to be having fun, are they developing new skills, are the coaches friendly and encouraging, and do they take into account each child's needs and abilities.

* Your child may be more likely to try a new activity, if they have a friend going with them. Speak to your child's friend’s parents to see if they might be interested in joining to.

* Your child's personality may also be a factor in deciding on an activity. Some children are naturally sporty and enjoy a competitive environment, while others find it difficult to be assertive and would prefer an activity that allows them to progress at their own speed. The former may enjoy soccer, while the later may excel in swimming.

* Once your child has decided on an activity, allow them to ease in slowly. Some children may prefer to watch the first session.

* Once your child has started a new activity, give them constant praise and encouragement, especially if they are learning a new skill. Avoid pushing them to hard. Positive feedback is key and ultimately the emphasis should be on having fun.

How much exercise is right for my child?

Research has shown that children of all ages need to engage in at least 1 hour of activity, which can be described as ‘moderate in intensity’ every day. This can include brisk walking, swimming, dancing, active play, cycling and most sports. Health experts recommend that children participate in activities that help develop and maintain muscular strength, flexibility and bone health, at least twice a week. Climbing, skipping, jumping and gymnastics are all good for this. An hour a day may sound challenging, but children by nature, tend to prefer short bursts rather than sustained periods of activity. For example, a child who walks to and from school, plays outside most days, does a regular extramural activity, such as dancing or soccer and joins in with family activities over the weekend, is probably averaging the recommended level of exercise per week.

Besides engaging in physical activities as a family, let your child choose an activity that they prefer, so that they'll be more likely to stick to it. Limit time spent watching TV, playing video games and using the internet. Practice healthy lifestyle habits of your own, in order to be a positive role model to your children.


Collins, J (ed). (2003). Children's Medical Guide: The Essential Guide from Birth to 11 Years. Dorling Kindersley: Great Britain.