Kids and Exercise
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:
1. run away from the kid who's "it" (endurance)
2. cross the monkey bars (strength)
3. bend down to tie their shoes (flexibility)
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:
• ice skating
• inline skating
Improving strength doesnt 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:
• Put limits on the time spent using media, which includes TV, social media, and video games. Media should not take the place of getting enough sleep and being active.
• Limit screen time to 1 hour a day or less for children 2 to 5 years old.
• Discourage any screen time, except video-chatting, for kids younger than 18 months.
• Choose high-quality programming and watch it with your kids to help them understand what they're seeing.
• Keep TVs, computers, and video games out of children's bedrooms and turn off screens during mealtimes.