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Kids and Exercise

What's in this article?

When most adults think about exercise, they imagine working out in the gym, running on a treadmill, or lifting weights

But for kids, exercise means playing and being physically active Kids exercise when they have gym class at school, during recess, at dance class or soccer practice, while riding bikes, or when playing tag

The Many Benefits of Exercise

Everyone can benefit from regular exercise Kids who are active will:

  • have stronger muscles and bones
  • have a leaner body
  • be less likely to become overweight
  • decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels
  • have a better outlook on life

Besides enjoying the health benefits of regular exercise, kids who are physically fit sleep better They're also better able to handle physical and emotional challenges — from running to catch a bus to studying for a test

The Three Elements of Fitness

If you've ever watched kids on a playground, you've seen the three elements of fitness in action when they:

Parents should encourage their kids to do a variety of activities so that they can work on all three elements

Endurance develops when kids regularly get aerobic activity During aerobic exercise, the heart beats faster and a person breathes harder When done regularly and for extended periods of time, aerobic activity strengthens the heart and improves the body's ability to deliver oxygen to all its cells

Aerobic exercise can be fun for both adults and kids Aerobic activities include:

Improving strength doesn't have to mean lifting weights Instead, kids can do push-ups, stomach crunches, pull-ups, and other exercises to help tone and strengthen muscles They also improve their strength when they climb, do a handstand, or wrestle

Stretching exercises help improve flexibility, allowing muscles and joints to bend and move easily through their full range of motion Kids get chances every day to stretch when they reach for a toy, practice a split, or do a cartwheel

The Sedentary Problem

Being overweight or obese in childhood has become a serious problem Many things add to this epidemic, but a big part of it is that kids are becoming more sedentary In other words, they're sitting around a lot more than they used to

Kids and teens now spend hours every day in front of a screen (TVs, smartphones, tablets, and other devices) looking at a variety of media (TV shows, videos, movies, games) Too much screen time and not enough physical activity add to the problem of childhood obesity

One of the best ways to get kids to be more active is to limit the amount of time spent in sedentary activities, especially watching TV or other screens The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends parents:

How Much Exercise Is Enough?

Parents should make sure that their kids get enough exercise So, how much is enough? Kids and teens should get 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) offers these activity guidelines for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers:

No specific requirements

Physical activity should encourage motor development

30 minutes planned physical activity AND 60 minutes unstructured physical activity (free play)

60 minutes planned physical activity AND 60 minutes unstructured physical activity (free play)

Break up into bouts of 15 minutes or more

Infants and young children should not be inactive for long periods of time — no more than 1 hour unless they're sleeping And school-age children should not be inactive for periods longer than 2 hours

Raising Fit Kids

Combining regular physical activity with a healthy diet is the key to a healthy lifestyle

Here are some tips for raising fit kids:

  • Help your kids participate in a variety of age-appropriate activitiesWe tend to furrow and frown more, Day says.
  • Establish a regular schedule for physical activity
  • Make being active a part of daily life, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Embrace a healthier lifestyle yourself, so you'll be a positive role model for your family
  • Keep it fun, so your kids will come back for more

  • For Teens
  • For Kids
  • For Parents

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Note: All information on KidsHealth® is for educational purposes only For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor

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