The Importance of Exercise for Your Child | Revere Health

The health of their growing children is a priority in any parent’s life, and few things are as important to kids’ health as their level of exercise and fitness. Staying physically fit early in life can prevent potential conditions from developing, and it helps children stay positive and energetic.

Exercise for children isn’t the same as it is for adults, though. Many of us in our adult years have to plan out exercise, and either go to a gym or set aside time. For children, much of their exercise is an organic part of daily life. They play at recess, they play outside after school and they take part in all sorts of physical activities, from sports to dance and more.

Here’s a look at some fitness basics for kids – the types, benefits, and proper amounts they need, plus how to gently push them in the right direction with their habits.

3 Elements of Fitness for Kids

There are three main elements that go into exercise and fitness for your kids:

  1. Endurance: This is the ability to keep active for longer periods of time without losing breath or strength. It can be strengthened with basic aerobic activity like the running and jumping they naturally do during play time, and also through many team and individual sports.
  2. Strength: Not all kids will want to lift weights or do exercises like pushups and crunches, but there are other ways to build strength as well – think rock climbing, gymnastics, wrestling or anything that naturally helps them build muscles.
  3. Flexibility: You can encourage your children to stretch, though they often do a lot of natural stretching during movements – which is only increased by the fact that the young body is growing and “stretching” itself little by little.

Benefits of Exercise

Regularly performing these three kinds of exercise – especially endurance – leads to several benefits for kids. Many of these are the first layer of prevention their bodies get from long-term conditions:

  • Less risk of obesity
  • Stronger muscles and bones, and leaner figure
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower cholesterol levels, especially “bad” cholesterol
  • Increased happiness and lower stress
  • Lowered risk of developing diabetes

Proper Amounts

A parent’s responsibility includes making sure your kids get enough exercise. Here are the basic recommendations from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) for levels of exercise based on age:

  • Infants: No specific requirement, mainly just basic motor skills
  • Toddler: 1.5 hours per day, at least an hour of which should be “play” time with no plans or structure
  • Preschool: 2 hours a day – 1 hour apiece of planned and unplanned activity
  • Elementary school age and up: 1 or more hours, broken up into smaller chunks of time wherever possible (recess, games, etc)

Obesity and Habit Forming

Obesity in children has become a major issue in the United States, and much of this is because kids aren’t as active. The rise of technology has put more non-movement entertainment options in front of them, and it’s tough to keep kids motivated.

As a parent, you can help with this motivation. Here are a few tips for keeping your children away from screens and enjoying an active lifestyle.

  • Limit screen time – perhaps with exercise-related incentives, where they can play a game or watch a show as long as they’re active for a certain amount of time first. Keep screens out of kids’ rooms.
  • Make a regular schedule for physical activity.
  • Emphasize little bits of activity when there’s a choice – take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Find ways to make exercise fun.
  • Set the example – if you stay active and healthy, your kids will view this as the norm

Schedule an appointment with our doctors at Orem Family Medicine today!

Sources:

“Kids and Exercise.” KidsHealth.org. http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/exercise.html#

“Exercise for Children.” MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/exerciseforchildren.html

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.

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