Less than half the children in the United States get the recommended amount of physical activity each day, with 91% percent consuming very poor diets. Because of this, more than 12 million children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with obesity. That is one in every six children. In order to keep your child healthy and happy, it’s essential that he or she get enough physical activity. Below is information to help educate you on what qualifies as physical activity, how your child can benefit from it and how you can encourage your child to be less sedentary.
How Much Exercise Should Your Child Get Daily?
According to studies from the Department of Health and Human Services, children over the age of six should get a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity each day. This hour should be filled with moderate or vigorous aerobic activity. Additionally, it is important that children participate muscle- and bone-strengthening activities at least three times a week. You should note that the 60 minutes do not have to be consecutive. Even if your child can only get 30 minutes here and another 30 minutes there, what’s important is that he or she gets 60 minutes total.
The Benefits Of Exercise For Children
Children who get regular physical activity enjoy a multitude of benefits including stronger muscles and bones, a leaner body, a reduced risk of childhood obesity, a decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, a lower risk of anxiety and a generally happier outlook on life. Children that exercise also tend to sleep better.
Exercise And The Brain
Exercise is also essential for the development of your child’s motor skills. This then will play a role in your child’s coordination, self-confidence, socialization skills and academic performance. Additionally, a recent study showed that children who participated in an exercise group were better at “attentional inhibition.” This means the children were able to focus on the task at hand with the ability to toggle between the cognitive tasks they had been given.
What Counts As Physical Activity?
The activities that count towards your child’s daily exercise quota include common school-age activities. Playing on playground equipment and jumping rope are great options that check both the aerobic and strength recommendations. Another great option is organized sports like baseball, soccer and football.
If your child is not into sports, try getting creative. For children who are artistically inclined, consider a nature hike where he or she can collect foliage that can be used for a collage later. Perhaps your child prefers climbing. If so, try a nearby jungle gym or climbing wall.
Introducing Your Child To Exercise
So how do you introduce your child to exercise? It depends on the age. What may work for a younger child might not be successful with a teenager.
5 Years Old And Under
Team sports are a great way for young children to get involved in exercise. At this age, it’s important for sports to be fun and not a competition. Sports like soccer, basketball and T-ball are excellent for children five and under.
Ages 6 To 8 Years Old
As children get older, their skills progress and activities like gymnastics and riding a bike become easier. This is a great time to expose your child to a variety of physical activities so they can determine what’s the best fit.
Ages 9 to 14 Years Old
This is the age range where children gain better hand-eye coordination. They also tend to become more competitive at this age, so it is OK to encourage competition, as long as it’s friendly. Discourage heavy weight lifting and encourage lighter strength training, such as stretchy tubes and bands.
Ages 15 And Up
At this age, children may begin to express interest in endurance activities, such as triathlons or marathons. It is important for your child to focus on proper training to avoid injury. Continue to encourage your child to be active, which will help build a healthy foundation for exercise moving forward.
Ways To Get Your Child Off The Couch
These days it’s easy for kids to become sedentary. Between television, smartphones, tablets and other devices, screen time has caused children to be much less active than in days past. If you’re worried your child is not getting enough physical activity, here some ways you encourage him or her to be less sedentary:
- Limit the amount of time you allow your child to use media. This includes television, social media and video games.
- Try to keep your child’s screen time to less than an hour a day for those 2 to 5 years old.
- Don’t allow your child to keep any televisions, computers or video games in his or her bedroom. Screens should also be turned off during mealtimes.
- Take your child to the playground.
- Encourage your child to do something physical, such as ride a bike or play basketball outside, after school instead of watching TV or playing video games.
- Lead by example. Don’t be afraid to engage in physical activity with your child when possible. Encourage your child to start a game of tag or offer to take him or her to the pool in the summer. Swimming is a great way for your child to get some aerobic activity in!
How To Raise A Fit Child
There is more to raising a fit child than simply making sure your child gets enough daily physical activity. By combining regular exercise with a healthy diet, your child can maintain a healthy lifestyle. Try to minimize the amount of processed foods your child takes in. When possible, opt for fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats. If you are looking for healthy lunches that you can pack for your child, check out our post here.
If you have questions or concerns about your child’s health, consider visiting your local Medical City Children’s Urgent Care. All six of our locations have board-certified pediatricians, offer convenient access to the expert care you need right when you need it and are even open after hours or on the weekend.
Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you or your child.