From managing weight to supporting heart health, the importance of being physical active is well-known in adulthood. But just like adults, kids also need to be active.
Not only can exercise present instant advantages, cultivate to a happier, healthier, and longer life. Learn the benefits of exercise for children, along with tips to help ensure your child is meeting the recommended guidelines.
The Benefits of Exercise for Children
• Supports a healthy weight and lowers the risk of obesity
• Increases concentration and energy levels throughout the day
• Enhances classroom attendance, behaviors, and performance
• Builds stronger muscles and bones
• Develops coordination and balance
• Strengthens function of the heart and lungs
• Ensures and maintains healthy lab levels, including blood pressure and cholesterol
• Reduces the risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes
• Cares for mental health by staving from stress, depression, and anxiety
• Boosts self-efficacy, self-confidence, and self-esteem
• Initiates a better night’s rest
• Improves overall physical and emotional well-being
How Much Exercise Is Enough?
Just like adults, kids are encouraged to exercise be at least physical active for an hour each day. The most current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines the following based on age:
• Preschool-Aged Children (ages 3 through 5 years): Participate in physical activity throughout the day to enhance growth and development, in which adult caregivers should encourage active play that includes a variety of activity types.
• Children and Adolescents (ages 6 through 17 years): 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily, with the inclusion of aerobic, muscle- and bone-strengthening exercises.
The guidelines further mention it is important to provide young people opportunities and encouragement to participate in physical activities that are appropriate for their age, that are enjoyable, and that offer variety.
How to Ensure the Benefits of Physical Activity for Kids
Children vary in their levels of physical activity: Some may not participate at all, while others may exceed the recommendations. The guidelines further help caregivers meet the recommendations in a safe manner:
• Children and adolescents who do not meet the key guidelines: Slowly increase their moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in small steps and in ways that they enjoy. A gradual increase in the number of days and the time spent being active will help reduce the risk of injury.
• Children and adolescents who currently meet the key guidelines: Continue doing moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every day and, if appropriate, become even more active. Evidence suggests that even more than 60 minutes of activity daily may provide additional health benefits for school-aged youth.
• Children and adolescents who exceed the key guidelines: Maintain current activity level while varying activities to reduce the risk of overtraining or injury.
Tips to Inspire Exercise
Truly, kids are already active in nature. But as caregivers and role models, there are a number of ways to inspire and continue exercise in kids, including the following:
• Start Slow: Especially if your child is inactive now, start slow with physical activity. As they start to build stamina, strength, and confidence, increase exercise gradually.
A slow, steady pace not only helps prevent the risk of injury, but lowers the risk of them becoming discouraged.
• Reduce Screen Time: According to a CBS News report, kids and teens (ages 8 to 18) spend an average of more than seven hours a day looking at screens, with the American Heart Association (AHA) recommending parents limit screen time for kids to a maximum of just two hours per day. For younger children (ages 2 to 5), the recommended limit is one hour per day.
So with screen time taking hours of your child’s time and increasing the risk of sedentary behavior, start setting parameters of when your child can watch television, play games, etc. This screen time reduction tool kit can also help you keep encourage learning and healthy physical and social development.
• Lead by Example: Exercising as a parent and caregiver is essential for motivating kids to be active, as they often model behaviors. So lead by example by scheduling exercise and modeling an active lifestyle.
You can also take it a step further and model additional healthy lifestyle factors, including eating a nutritious diet. For instance, have healthy, yummy, snacks around the house. Instead of buying chips or candy, try frozen grapes with sugar on top. You could also try some apples and peanut butter or carrots and ranch dressing.
• Get Active Together: There are a number of both workouts for kids and adults they can do together, including full-body conditioning exercises or a simple game of catch in the backyard.
Walking the dog, hiking and packing a healthy picnic, riding bikes around the neighborhood, and going to the zoo are also just a few fun ways to spark active children and other family members. Also include friends from time-to-time, kids also enjoy when friends can tag along and join in on the fun.
Truly, getting active as a family and with friends not only helps build a healthy lifestyle, but creates lasting memories together.
• Have Fun: Being active should not feel like a chore or stand as a punishment. And if it does, kids (and adults) often lose interest in the activity or exercise.
Physical activity is also much more than an organized sport, so look outside the playing fields of soccer, baseball, basketball, etc. Additional ways to be active include rock climbing, hiking, and swimming.
Ultimately, offer activities that your child enjoys. Doing so not only helps ensure the benefits of exercise for children, but motivates them to keep be active for years to come!
To Sum It Up
Especially when sitting less and moving more, there are many benefits of physical activity for kids and adults, including lending to happier, healthier, and longer lives.
Fortunately, too, numerous opportunities exist to increase exercise as a family, which helps ensure such benefits and prospers lasting memories for all.