Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.
-John F. Kennedy
Physical activity, or lack thereof, can have a profound effect on our lives. Exercise is especially crucial for the health and fitness of children. All children. Why? Because starting the habit of regular physical fitness at a young age makes them much more likely to sustain their fitness throughout their lives.
There are an abundant of advantages daily physical activity provides children. Just a few of these obvious benefits include sleeping better, working out some of that energy (You know, the “ants in their pants!”), and they’ll have tons of fun while they’re moving their bodies!
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), physical activity helps children by:
- Keeping their weight under control
- Reducing their blood pressure
- Raising their good (HDL) cholesterol (the “healthy” cholesterol)
- Reducing their risk of diabetes and certain cancers
- Improving their psychological well-being—this includes gaining a higher self-esteem and self-confidence
Physical activity doesn’t need to be formal. No need for exercise classes or anything fancy. Your child can play outside, play in sports, bicycle, run, jump, and even walk. Just that normal kid stuff is great exercise—as long as they keep those bodies moving!
How to Get ‘Em Moving
Sometimes it can be difficult to get children off their phones, tablets, or computers. So how do you convince your child to do so? The AHA offers some good advice for promoting exercise in your child:
- Sedentary time needs to be reduced (cut back on computers, tablets, phones, television)
- Physical activity should always be fun for kids
- Parents need to be role models and live an active lifestyle—this will create more opportunities to increase physical activity
So you might ask: What if my child isn’t athletic or is overweight? No problem. They need to get some physical activity in each day; but they don’t need to be great athletes. Most children can play outside, even if it starts with just walking. It all counts. Remember, in addition to the physical benefits, it can also help with their self-confidence.
The AHA recommends that children who are age 2 and older need to engage in a minimum of 60 minutes of a moderate intensity physical activity each day. The activity/exercise should be enjoyable to the child, and appropriate for their age and abilities. Be sure to shake it up and vary the activities to avoid boredom. Don’t have a full 60 minutes to devote to physical activity each day? Then break the activity up into four 15 minute, or two 30 minute periods each day.
Let’s Get Physical!
It doesn’t take much to get (and keep) your child moving. Get them in the habit now and they are much more likely to continue the pattern throughout their childhood and into adulthood. It is much harder to pick it up as an adult (Isn’t that the truth?). Don’t worry if up to this point they haven’t been getting the exercise they need—just start now. All that matters is what you do now and in the future!