get your kid in action - the importance of exercise


In order to live a well-rounded healthy lifestyle physical activity should be incorporated into your child’s daily activities.  Exercise helps our bodies to reach peak performance and is known to reduce health risks like cardiovascular problems.  Exercise also aides in building overall strength, bone density, healthy joints and muscles all while helping to maintain a healthy weight.
                In addition exercise has also been shown to help in other ways as well.  Children who get the appropriate amount of daily exercise also enjoy the ability to sleep better as well as reduce stress levels.
                Even given all the health benefits that come with exercise 50% of American adults still don’t get enough exercise.  Just like with our nutrition, the exercise habits we create when we’re young are usually carried over into our adult life.  So get your kid moving now to keep them healthy well into future.

Scary Stats
There are some disturbing trends that are forming among children and teens as far as the level of physical activity they’re getting.  Overall kids 2-19 aren’t getting nearly enough exercise to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Below are some recent statistics on children and exercise.

  • As of 2006 less than one third of 15 years olds got the minimum amount of required physical activity during the week and on weekends it dropped to just 17%
  • On average kids spend 5 ½ hours a day on media driven sedentary activities
  • 3 hours of the 5 ½ is spent watching television
  • Teens spend an average of 6 hours a day on media driven sedentary activities
  • 1 in 3 children in America are overweight or obese
  • The likelihood of cardiovascular disease, Type II diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea, and certain types of cancer in children is increased by obesity
  • Only 10% of schools offer daily physical education classes, and many of those don’t meet the time requirements of weekly exercise

How much physical activity does my child need?
Studies by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have revealed that the majority of children should be getting approximately 60 minutes of physical activity basically every day.  The activity itself isn’t as important as making sure it hits on the 3 criteria of healthy exercise: strength, endurance and flexibility.

You can use a calorie calculator to estimate about how many calories each type of physical activity burns.

Exercise for ages 2-3
At this age toddlers are developing their motor skills, such as running and throwing.  Children at this age have energy to spare for physical activity, so they can benefit from up to 1 ½ hours of daily exercise.  A good exercise plan is to allow them 60 minutes of unstructured activity that is something they’re conducting as well as 30 minutes of structured exercise time.

Recommended exercises for this age group include traditional games like tag and leap frog as well as activities that include age appropriate toys.  Even a trip to the park is an easy way to get in an hour of exercise with your child.

Exercise for ages 4-5
By the time your child is 4-5 years old they have developed their motor skills enough to control the basics.  At this stage they are working on further improving balance and increasing their physical skill set.

Though an hour is the minimum required amount of physical activity in this age group up to 2 hours of exercise is beneficial.  The exercise should be split between an hour of structured activity that you plan and an hour of unstructured activity that the child is able to decide on.

At this age focus on activities that help them work on their balance and hand-eye coordination like catch or gymnastics.  Depending on your child’s physical abilities and comfort level more involved exercises like learning to swim or ride a bike is also an option.  From 4-5 years old is also when your child can start participating in smaller scale sports centered activities.  However, you should try to limit the number of people involved and only focus on the basics of the game.

Exercise for ages 6-12
During the age from 6-12 it’s important to start really laying the groundwork for healthy exercise habits.  This is the time when kids can really start becoming more involved with the decisions they make in regards to exercise.  This is also when many children start participating in organized sports teams.

From 6-12 years old 60 minutes of exercise is the required minimum.  This is when you can help your child really develop a fitness routine with team sports that meet a few times a week as well as activities they can do regularly at home.  There’s also the option of enrolling them in activities like a yoga class, rock climbing or even a kid-friendly gym.

Exercise for ages 13-18
This could possibly be the most vital time for your child to keep up daily physical activity.  That’s because as kids get older the amount of exercise they get drops, starting at age 13 for girls and 15 for boys.  In addition to health benefits, such as weight management, physical activity can increase self esteem and a positive self image among this age group which is also very important.

Again 60 minutes of exercise is recommended for kids that are 13-18 years old.  In this age group team sports is still a great option and a natural choice for kids who’ve been participating in them already.  However, teens tend to drop out of these sports so your encouragement can be a big help.  It’s important to let them choose the activity that they want to do as they are definitely flexing their independent thought muscles at this age.  Another good idea is to have your child plan group activities with friends.  This way they can still get in their social time, which is part of the reasons exercise drops off in this age group.

Improve Your Child’s Exercise Habits
                Ultimately your child’s activity level is up to them.  However, you can encourage them to get enough exercise easily.  It just takes making a few changes to see a real difference.

Your Activity:
Children are going to be influenced by the adults around them.  That’s why it’s so important that you set a good example.  If you aren’t getting enough exercise it will be hard to explain to a child why they need to keep up their physical activity.  Start making changes in your own work out regimen and not only will you improve the chances of your child getting active to stay healthy, but you as well will feel the health benefits.

Exercise Together:
A perfect way to implement the prior point is to plan physical activities that you and your child can do together.  Not only will this give you quality time together but it will give you both a chance to get your heart pumping.  It’s also sometimes easier to stick with it if there’s someone else to hold you accountable and enjoy the activity with.

Kid Friendly Exercise:
Exercise for kids doesn’t have to feel like exercise.  By choosing activities that are fun, getting your kid moving won’t be as much of a struggle and the duration of activity will likely last longer.  Also try to incorporate activities that are new.  This will keep your kid mentally involved as they learn something new and broaden their perspective on what can considered be exercise.

Reduce Sedentary Activities:
Sedentary activities are those that require very little exertion and aren’t considered exercise.  Things like watching television and playing video games fall into this category.  So to improve your child’s chances of getting the daily physical activity they need you must reduce these activities.  The easiest way to do so is to eliminate or limit the temptation by not having these electronics around or easily accessible.

Definitely avoid putting a television in your child’s room.  Also set limits on the amount of time your child is allowed to take part in these sedentary activities.  It might be tough on the child at first but in the long run they’ll be able to cope with a better balance in their activities.