Getting Physical: Guidelines for Children

We all know physical activity is important for good health, but often we forget that our children need to be physically active just as much as adults. With childhood obesity reaching near-epidemic proportions and juvenile diabetes on the rise, a warning sign is being sent to parents about the effects of lack of exercise on our children. By making physical activity a regular part of your child’s life early on, you will set her up for a lifetime of healthy habits.

How Much Exercise Should My Child Get?

The American Heart Association recommends that children and adolescents over the age of two should participate in at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, while older children and adolescents should aim for 60 minutes. This activity should be moderate to vigorous; this means that it should get your child’s heart rate up. If necessary, it’s ok to split the activity into more than one session; fifteen minutes in the morning and fifteen minutes in the afternoon will add up to 30 minutes just the same as doing it straight.

What Activities are Best for y Child?

The right type of physical activity depends on your child’s age, developmental stage and physical abilities. Your 3 year old probably isn’t coordinated enough to jump rope, but for a six year old it is a great choice. Most young children will get enough exercise just by spending an hour at a playground. Running around and climbing on play structures will increase heart rate as well as improve strength.

Older children will benefit from organized sports in more ways than one. In addition to improving their health, sports teach teamwork and increase self-confidence. Soccer is a great first sport for young children, as it is an easy sport to learn and carries less chance of injury than some other options. It’s always a good idea to choose a sport that your child is interested in playing. If they aren’t into it, they won’t have a good time and are likely to want to quit. Remember that fun is the name of the game! Children who learn that physical activity is enjoyable are more likely to stick with it through adulthood.

Your kids aren’t the only ones who should get in the habit of regular exercise. Remember that your children are much more likely to develop healthy habits if they see you engaging in the same practices; if they see you getting physical and enjoying it, they’ll want to do the same. Get involved in activities as a family; try bike riding, hiking, or throwing a ball around at the park. Good health isn’t the only benefit of exercising together; you will also get to spend quality time with your family.

General Precautions

With any physical activity, there are always a few precautions to keep in mind. Prevent injuries by making sure your child always has the proper equipment for the activity at hand. Especially on hot days, be sure there is plenty of water available and that your child consumes it. And don’t forget the sunscreen if you are playing outside; even on a cloudy day, damage can be done to the skin, so get in the habit of using it every time. Make sure your kids know to stop if something is hurting, and never keep playing on an injury.

Making physical activity a regular part of your everyday life will help your children to grow up healthy and strong. It may be the most important thing you can do to ensure your little one’s current and future health.

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