With all sorts of gadgets and entertainment today, kids get less and less exercise than ever before. And it’s not just those who are overweight – all children need regularly exercise for a healthy and balanced life.
What’s the right amount of exercise?
Children and adolescents should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. This may sound like a lot, but the full hour doesn’t have to occur all at once. The effects of exercise are cumulative and activities can be spread out over the day.
It doesn’t even have to be traditional exercise. It simply has to be any activity that gets kids moving, like playing catch or chasing the dog around the garden. Make physical activity fun for kids, and give them a lot of variety. You’ll know your kids’ exercise is intense enough if they’re breathing hard and sweating lightly.
What kind of physical activities are best?
Physical activity is divided into three types, each of which kids should do at least three times a week. The first is aerobic activity, which includes riding bikes, walking briskly, playing tag, swimming and playing sports such as basketball and soccer. The second is muscle-strengthening activities, which includes weight-bearing activities such as climbing trees, playing on a jungle gym and doing pushups. The third type is bone-strengthening activities such as skipping, hopping and running.
Keep in mind that many activities fit into more than one category. Gymnastics, for instance, is both muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening. Jumping rope is both aerobic and bone-strengthening.
How will my kids benefit from more exercise?
Regular exercise gives kids stronger muscles and bones, makes their hearts healthier, improves their immune function and decreases their obesity and diabetes risk. But the benefits aren’t just physical.
Studies show that kids perform better in school when they have a chance to take a break and burn off energy as physical activity also helps the brain work better. Physical activity can also reduce anxiety and depression as it helps promote overall positive mental health.
How can I get them interested?
Sometimes all it takes to get the kids off the couch is a bit of creativity. Here are a few ideas:
Set up an obstacle course: This can be in your garden, garage or basement – use things like hula hoops and buckets as obstacles.
Do a scavenger hunt: Make a list of items in your local area, then go out and look for them.
Make a family exercise video: Break out the camera and some cool gear and let the production begin – the fun you’ll have making the video and exercising to it will last forever.
Have a dance party: Turn on some music and dance with your kids. It’s not only fun, it burns calories.
Brave the elements: If it’s raining, dress them in old clothes and let them splash in the puddles – kids love to get dirty.
Of course, the best way to encourage your kids to be more active is to be active yourself. Parents need to lead by example, so put down the remote control and go for a walk. Play hide-and-seek. Set up a game of hopscotch in the driveway.
Moving daily is essential for a child’s growth and development and if you make the time to exercise as a family, children will realize that it is important and fun and it will become routine.