Exercise is vital at all ages of life, including in children. It doesn’t necessarily mean going to the gym. Any physical activity that increases the heart rate can be counted as exercise. Being physically active is important in children as it determines how their bodies and minds develop.
Research has shown that physical activity in children has decreased worldwide. Many children lead a sedentary lifestyle, and parents are anxious if the amount of time children spend sitting in front of screens playing video games, watching television, and using tablets or cell phones will hinder their development.
Many factors contribute to this lack of physical activity in children, and they include:
- Urban living
- Academic pressure
The consequences of children having a sedentary lifestyle may not show when they are young. They are likely to have issues when they reach a certain age. According to research, inactive children are likely to become inactive adults.
Being inactive has consequences like:
- Energy imbalance that puts your child at risk of becoming obese
- Increased risk of developing conditions like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease
- Low bone density
Exercising in Children
Instilling positive exercise habits at an early age encourages your child’s development by enhancing motor skills and promoting bone and muscle growth.
Parents should encourage their children to do a variety of exercises that promote:
Exercises that promote strength include exercises like crunches and pushups. These exercises will strengthen your child’s muscles and bones and tone their muscles.
Exercises that increase flexibility include stretching activities such as dancing, yoga, martial arts, and a simple activity such as stretching to pick a toy for smaller children.
Exercises that build endurance are mainly aerobic. These activities help strengthen your child’s heart and improve their body’s oxygen circulation. Such activities include;
- Playing soccer or basketball
Exercises Based on Your Child’s Age
Please encourage your child to be physically active for at least 60 minutes daily. The best way to engage your child in physical activities and keep them fit is by:
- Making it fun that they look forward to the activities
- Involve the whole family
- Schedule physical activities that are regular and are consistent
- Be a good role model by being physically active
Activities for a child below 1 year
This age group involves children who are not mobile. As a parent, you can keep them active by including activities like tummy time and stretching to pick a toy for at least 30 minutes spread throughout the day.
Screen time is discouraged for this age group; instead, read a book or tell a story to your child as they rest. Also, ensure a good balance between physical activities and rest. Your child should get at least 17 hours of sleep daily.
Activities for children aged between 1-2 years
Children in this age group should get 180 minutes of activities spread out throughout the day. They should not be restrained for more than an hour at a time. Sleep is recommended for at least 11 hours every day.
Children in this group are slightly mobile and should be engaged in moderate-intensity activities. During resting time, avoid screen time and instead read a book to your child or tell them a story.
Activities for children aged between 3-4 years
Physical activities for 180 minutes spread out throughout the day for this group are recommended. This age group is normally very active, so this should not be a problem. Include fun activities in your daily routine, like running around.
Activities for children aged 5- 17 years
These are school-going children, and they should be encouraged to be physically active for at least 60 minutes every day. They should engage in moderate to vigorous aerobic activities like swimming, cycling, and other sports. Strengthening exercises should be encouraged and discourage them from being sedentary for long.
Reasons Your Child Should Exercise
Parents should ensure their children exercise every day since exercise benefits their bodies and minds as they grow. Here are some reasons why you should encourage your child to be physically active;
1. Exercise Improves fitness and overall health
Exercise will help your child keep fit and reduce the chances of becoming obese or overweight. It also protects them from health problems like cardiovascular diseases and Type 2 diabetes linked to obesity.
Exercise also strengthens your child’s bones and muscles, reducing the risk of conditions like osteoporosis.
2. Exercise improves brain function
As your child exercises, their heart rate increases, promoting cardiovascular fitness. This prompts the growth of new blood vessels in the brain and improves blood circulation to the brain.
According to research, exercise increases brain size, hence improving academic performance in children.
3. Exercise improves your child’s coordination, balance, flexibility, and posture.
It helps your child to be able to perform daily tasks with ease.
4. Exercise is good for your child’s mental health.
Exercise reduces the likelihood of a child getting anxiety and depression. When a child exercises, there is a release of endorphins in the brain, making your child happier.
Endorphins also improve your child’s self-confidence, give them better sleep, and increase their energy levels.
5. Exercise gives your child an opportunity to socialize
When your child engages in physical activities with other children, they learn to socialize, make friends, and share.
Parents should prioritize keeping their children active to promote their health and wellbeing. Ensure your child has protective equipment when exercising to avoid injuries, to minimize the risk of injuries.