Exercise for Children! Does it have Any Fitness Benefits?

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Adults are keenly aware that they need to exercise to get or stay fit. However, many think that children do not need to exercise. Perhaps they feel that children get enough activity during the day with all the running around and playing involved in just being a child. The rise in sedentary activities like watching TV/playing video games/internet surfing is reflected in the parallel rise in childhood obesity rates.

Instead of letting your kids come home to a bedroom full of technology, why not enroll them in a sports class?  Music Lessons? Or even a book club?  My children have been members of the Dorchester YMCA since they were small and take advantage of the swimming, martial arts, and basketball classes they offer.  My son even works out with a personal trainer on a limited basis.

The American Council on Exercise offers the following 10 reasons why children should exercise:

  1. Kids who exercise are more likely to keep exercising as an adult.
  2. Exercise helps kids achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
  3. Regular physical activity helps build and maintain strong, healthy muscles, bones and joints.
  4. Exercise aids in the development of important interpersonal skills—this is especially true for participation in team sports.
  5. Exercise improves the quantity and quality of sleep.
  6. Research shows that exercise promotes improved school attendance and enhances academic performance.
  7. Kids who exercise have greater self-esteem and better self-images.
  8. Participating in regular physical activity prevents or delays the development of many chronic diseases (e.g., heart disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension) and promotes health.
  9. Children who are active report fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression and a better overall mood.
  10. Exercise helps improve motor coordination and enhances the development of various motor performance skills.

A report by the CDC recommends 60 minutes of exercise for children each day.  Their research indicates that the average 8-11 year old only gets 5 minutes of vigorous exercise a day.  This is very believable in light of the reduction of physical fitness and recess in America’s schools.  Our schools are so focused on the core standards of reading, writing, and arithmetic that our children will be tested on that they are overlooking this critical piece of their development.  Maybe we should bring the Presidential Physical Fitness Test back (does anyone remember that besides me??) and include it among the subjects that our children are accountable for.

Until that happens, one thing that we as parents can do to increase our children’s activity is to be active ourselves.  It’s no secret that children pick up the habits of their parents; so if you are active, they will be active.  A few ways that you can influence their behavior:

  • Find a parking spot further away from the mall/grocery store/wherever and walk
  • If possible, walk up the escalator in the mall instead of riding it
  • Schedule yard work and outside projects to do in warmer weather

These, coupled with a nutritious diet, will put your child on the road to a lifetime of wellness.

I wonder how this toddler would have fared if she’d had a bit more exercise under her belt….


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