Why is physical activity important for children?
Increased physical activity has been associated with an increased life expectancy and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Physical activity produces overall physical, psychological and social benefits. Inactive children are likely to become inactive adults. And physical activity helps with
- controlling weight
- reducing blood pressure
- raising HDL ("good") cholesterol
- reducing the risk of diabetes and some kinds of cancer
- improved psychological well-being, including gaining more self-confidence and higher self-esteem
The American Heart Association recommends:
- All children age 2 and older should participate in at least 60 minutes of enjoyable, moderate-intensity physical activities every day that are developmentally appropriate and varied.
- If your child or children don't have a full 60-minute activity break each day, try to provide at least two 30-minute periods or four 15-minute periods in which they can engage in vigorous activities appropriate to their age, gender and stage of physical and emotional development.
The Many Benefits of Physical Activity
Everyone can benefit from regular physical activity. Kids who are active will:
Besides enjoying these health benefits, kids who are physically fit sleep better and are better able to handle physical and emotional challenges — from running to catch a bus to studying for a test.
How do I promote physical activity in my child?
- Physical activity should be increased by reducing sedentary time (e.g., watching television, playing computer video games or talking on the phone).
- Physical activity should be fun for children and adolescents.
- Parents should try to be role models for active lifestyles and provide children with opportunities for increased physical activity.
The Three Elements of Fitness
If you've ever watched kids on a playground, you've seen the three elements of fitness in action when they:
Parents should encourage their kids to do a variety of activities so that they can work on all three elements.
Endurance is developed when kids regularly engage in aerobic activity. During aerobic exercise, the heart beats faster and a person breathes harder. When done regularly and for extended periods of time, aerobic activity strengthens the heart and improves the body's ability to deliver oxygen to all its cells.
Aerobic exercise can be fun for both adults and kids. Examples of aerobic activities include:
- run away from the kid who's "it" (endurance)
- cross the monkey bars (strength)
- bend down to tie their shoes (flexibility)
Improving strength doesn't have to mean lifting weights. Although some kids benefit from weightlifting, it should be done under the supervision of an experienced adult who works with them.
But most kids don't need a formal weight-training program to be strong. Push-ups, stomach crunches, pull-ups, and other exercises help tone and strengthen muscles. Kids also incorporate strength activities in their play when they climb, do a handstand, or wrestle.
Stretching exercises help improve flexibility, allowing muscles and joints to bend and move easily through their full range of motion. Kids look for opportunities every day to stretch when they try to get a toy just out of reach, practice a split, or do a cartwheel.
- inline skating