How much exercise does your child need?

Many children do not get enough exercise. As a parent, you need to know how much they need and how to help them get enough.

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  • Startling statistics, such as the majority of 2 through 19-year-olds are not getting enough exercise, one out of three children is obese, and an average child consumes seven hours of media per day, are seen every day. Even though most people agree that something needs to be done to improve the health of today’s youth, exactly what and how remain difficult.

  • The need for exercise in children goes beyond just trimming waistlines.

  • According to the American Heart Association, children who exercise regularly:

    • Have stronger muscles and bone

    • Have less risk of type II diabetes

    • Have a better outlook on life

    • Have higher self-esteem

    • Are less likely to be depressed

    • Have a lower risk for high blood pressure and high cholesterol

    • Are less likely to develop asthma or other breathing problems

    • Are less likely to have sleep disorders such as snoring or sleep apnea

    • Have a lower risk of hormone imbalances

    • Are less likely to be the victim of bullying

    • Are less likely to have academic and behavior problems

  • Does all exercise have to be formally planned and followed? The answer is no. According to Kidshealth.org, “ ... for kids, exercise means playing and being physically active.” This broad view of exercise makes it easier for children to get the three elements of fitness.

  • The first element of fitness is endurance, and it can be achieved through aerobic-type activities that get the heart pumping.

  • The second element of fitness is flexibility, and it can be formal stretching exercises or can be informal activities such as reaching for things or bending down to get things.

  • The third element of exercise is strength, and it can be increased through callisthenic exercises such as pull-ups and sit-ups. However, it can also be increased through activities such as climbing or rough and tumble play.

  • The recommended time needed to accomplish good health is 1½ hours for toddlers, two hours for preschoolers, and one hour for school age children and adolescents.

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  • Getting children to exercise does not have to be a daunting task. Exercise together; you are both more likely to enjoy yourselves. Find creative ways to exercise and change what you are doing so it does not become boring. Remember that it does not have to be a formal routine.

  • Health Discoveryreminds us that children have a short attention span for physical activity; so you may have to take breaks periodically. Children become overheated, dehydrated, and tire faster than adults; so watch for warning signs. Be a good role model for your child; help him form habits that will last throughout his life. Make it enjoyable so that he will want to participate.

  • Some suggested activities are:

    • Hiking

    • Biking

    • Skiing

    • Running

    • Roller skating

    • Skateboarding

    • Push-ups

    • Sit-ups

    • Tag

    • Jumping rope

    • Tennis

    • Hockey

    • Basketball

    • Soccer

    • Martial arts

    • Gymnastics

    • Swimming

    • Duck-duck-goose

  • You have a busy life providing for your child's needs. You can provide for her need of exercise as well. Break exercise down to the basics. Find activities that you already do or enjoy doing and include those as part of your exercise. Remember that exercise does not have to be hours of cardiovascular activity. Keep workouts short, even 15 minutes of exercise will help.

  • Finding the time can seem like a difficult task, but just be creative about how you use your time. Have one child running around the playground while waiting for another to finish soccer practice. Last of all, remember that you do not have to be perfect. Know that trying and stumbling is still better than not trying at all.

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Michelle is the mother of two children who are in high school and elementary school. She enjoys sports and outdoor activities. She enjoys traveling and sharing new adventures with her children.

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