After a sporty Sevens weekend and the warm weather hopefully headed our way soon, it's now the perfect opportunity to help your kids get in better shape and boost their fitness levels. So we decided to speak with Matthew Paterson, owner of Minisport HK, to find out how to get the kids to turn off the video games and get into the exciting world of sports – even boosting their classwork along the way!LOCALIIZ: How important is sport for a child's physical and mental wellbeing and development? Paterson: Sport is fundamental to a balanced, healthy, active lifestyle with numerous positive outcomes; it has also been shown to drastically improve the quality of life for children living in large cities. Physical activity decreases the risk of developing several conditions including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. It also strengthens bones and muscles, improves posture and balance, as well as developing overall fitness and coordination. On the mental benefits of sport, it is well documented that sport improves a child’s self esteem and mood and even results in better academic performance! Sports during childhood also helps develop social skills, making it easier to speak to people, and make friends, as well as learning how to appropriately interact with adults through valuable and positive communication with coaches; this exposure has been proven to foster an increased sense of attachment to parents. LOCALIIZ: Do you think Hong Kong’s video game culture is detrimental to the development of children in terms of keeping them from getting outdoors and exercising? Paterson: I 100% agree with that, yes. At a recent trip to the beach, I was saddened to see a child with a towel over his head, obstructing the sun glaring off his iPad screen! Children need at least one hour of exercise per day, depending on their age; a fact that is far too easily forgotten in a fast paced, technologically advanced city like Hong Kong. If kids don’t pick up the habit of playing sport or even getting outside everyday, it becomes harder and harder to pick up as they get older. However, there are benefits to video games that are often forgotten such as improved hand eye coordination, reaction time, perception, and cognition. The key to getting the greatest benefits from both is moderation and balance; the issue nowadays is many kids are spending far too much time playing video games, which is eating into the time where they could have been outside being active, thereby disrupting the balance. LOCALIIZ: What kinds of outdoor activities and sports are available to children who live in Hong Kong? Paterson: Hong Kong’s unique landscape opens up numerous outdoor activities, which are usually not associated with large bustling cities. Gorgeous country parks and a plethora of islands and beaches make activities like hiking, camping, sailing, surfing, and kayaking easily accessible, as does the region’s climate. As well as these adventure based sports, the range of traditional sports available to children in the city is vast, everything from horse riding and archery to golf and football. As the range of activities on offer is so large, having a course to sample multiple sports is proving to be hugely popular. LOCALIIZ: What are the most popular activities and sports among children in Hong Kong? Paterson: The most popular sports for children in Hong Kong, in my opinion, have to be football and basketball, over the years the numbers of available courses in these sports has exploded, as has the quality of the coaching staff, especially in the territory’s youth development squads. This has led to improved national youth and senior sides hoping to compete with the best in Asia. Rugby is another sport that has come along leaps and bounds in recent years, spurred on by the publicity of the annual Rugby Sevens and the organisation’s streamlined management, with the senior side now a permanent part of Asia’s elite. LOCALIIZ: What advice would you give to any parents who are struggling to get their child interested in sport? Paterson: Always be positive and give lots of encouragement, but remember not to push them too hard, this can lead to them not enjoying the sport simply because of the parents’ action. Remember, having fun is the most important motivation to keep children interested, never force your kids to participate to get your money’s worth from a lesson or to not be a ‘quitter’, if they aren’t having fun, try something else. All kids are different, some may love team sports and other individual, let them try as many as they can and let them decide! The final piece of advice is to always find out what your child is thinking and reasons why they don’t enjoy certain activities. It may be the activity itself or the coaching or instruction style, finding out will give you a better guidance on what to try next time!