Exercise is an important part of keeping children healthy. Encouraging healthy lifestyles in kids and teens is important for when they grow older. Habits that are learned in childhood are more likely to stay with the child into adulthood. Some changes in lifestyle can be harder to make the older a person becomes.
The best way to promote healthy lifestyles is for the whole family to be involved.
A daily exercise program is a fun way to share physical activity with family and friends. And it helps create good heart-healthy habits. The following exercise guidelines for children can help you and your child plan activities:
Children ages 3 through 5 should be physically active throughout the day, such as being active when they play. They should also move and be active in a variety of structured activities, such as bicycle or tricycle riding, throwing games, and activities including hopping, skipping, and jumping. This enhances growth and development.
Children ages 6 through 17 should do at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. This physical activity should include aerobic exercise such as bicycling or jumping rope, and bone-strengthening activities such as running or jumping. It should also include muscle-strengthening activities such as climbing or doing resistance exercises. This helps to maintain good health and fitness. And it helps kids stay at a healthy weight as they grow.
Limit children’s screen time (TV, video, and computers) to less than 2 hours a day. Replace these sitting activities with activities that require more movement.
Even doing low-to-medium intensity activities for as little as 30 minutes a day can be helpful. These activities may include:
Regular aerobic activity increases a child’s capacity for exercise. It can help prevent heart diseases and type 2 diabetes and help to lower blood pressure. Aerobic activities are continuous activities that raise the heart rate and breathing rate. To prevent dehydration, encourage children to drink fluids often during physical activity. And to drink several glasses of water or other fluids without added sugar after the physical activity is done. Examples of vigorous activities may include:
Rollerblading or roller skating
Playing on the playground
Exercise on a regular basis is part of a healthy lifestyle. But some children can exercise too much. Talk with your child’s healthcare provider if:
Your child begins losing weight and falls below expected growth patterns
Exercise gets in the way of other normal activities including school
These are just some of the benefits of regular exercise or physical activity:
Improves blood circulation throughout the body
Keeps weight under control
Improves blood cholesterol levels
Prevents and manages high blood pressure
Prevents bone loss
Boosts energy level
Improves the ability to fall asleep quickly and sleep well
Helps manage stress
Counters anxiety and depression
Increases enthusiasm and optimism
Increases muscle strength