Exercise for children sometimes sounds like an oxymoron. Why do kid need to exercise? That’s only out of shape adults that need to get back to the gym. Right?
Yes, and no. No, in the sense that your kids don’t need to go to the gym or watch a workout video to get some exercise. Yes, though, in the sense that they do need exercise, as does everyone, in the form of simple physical activity.
Kids need to get and stay active. We, as parents, oftentimes make this a low priority, when we really need to put it at the top of our list. In this article, we want to talk more in depth about exercise for children. First, let’s look at some of the very important reasons why your kids should exercise regularly. After that, we’ll cover some quick strategies on how to get your kids moving and how you can encourage them to stay active.
Reasons for Children to Exercise
There are a multitude of reasons why exercise for children is important. Some of us as parents, though, might not understand all of the reasons fully. After all, shouldn’t providing a home to live in and food to eat and making sure they go to school be enough?
The short answer is no, it really isn’t enough. Talk to any pediatrician and they will tell you that you need to make sure your kids also get plenty of exercise every day. Let’s look more closely at some of the reason why exercise is so important for growing kids.
Exercise for Children Helps Fight Obesity
To begin with, exercise for children is important because it helps fight obesity. Obesity has become an epidemic in America, and not just among adults. Children’s weight, too, has exploded in the last several years. In fact, the CDC reports that obesity rates in children today are three times what they were in the 1970s. Statistics indicate that almost 1 in 5 school age children in America is currently obese.
While many factors contribute to this rising weight gain, a primary factor involves the limited amount of exercise most children get regularly. Additionally, our diets have gotten worse while the amount of food we eat has increased. Simply put, our children eat too much and what they eat contains too much sugar and fat. On top of that, they just don’t get out and exercise enough to burn off those extra calories.
We all need exercise, and experts say that children need more than adults, up to 1 hour per day. All experts agree that exercise for children helps to fight obesity and limit unnecessary weight gain. This is important especially for young children so that they put practices in place early that will benefit them later in life. Also, recent studies have shown that obesity in young children can possibly have long lasting health consequences such as liver disease. Fighting obesity while your kids are still young can pay health dividends later in life.
Help with Overall Development
Secondly, exercise aids greatly in the development of several key physical and mental areas. For instance, regular exercise helps with strength, coordination, and even a child’s self-esteem. Not only that, since many young children exercise through play with others, they also start to learn social skills, as well. Finally, exercise can even help boost your child’s immune system, which goes along nicely with keeping your child healthy and from getting diseases such as the flu.
Many of the pivotal development markers that exercise helps with simply can’t be achieved as well or at all with sitting on the couch and watching TV. Children need to have regular active play. Our bodies were designed to move and run and be active. If young children don’t play and exercise every day their minds won’t develop as fully the coordination they will need later in life.
As parents, we want our children to thrive physically and emotionally as much as they can. Exercise provides so many important developmental connection points that parents absolutely must make sure their children participate in some way. As a parent, simply encouraging regular exercise might be one of the simplest and best avenues to help your child’s overall development.
Exercise Helps Improve Focus and School Performance
Thirdly, you need to emphasize exercise for children because it can help improve focus, and as a result, how well your child does in school. Exercise typically involves your whole body. When you get moving and active, your heart rate increases as your body pumps more blood to essential body parts. Additionally, physical activity engages your muscles and even your brain which produces chemicals as a result. Some of these chemicals, called endorphins, help to make you feel better as well as help to improve cognitive abilities such as concentration and memory.
Furthermore, studies have found that important areas of the brain responsible for things like memory have greater volume in people who regularly exercise. For your children, these findings are vitally important. They mean that for your child’s brain to grow, they have to do more than just hit the books. They also need to engage their whole body in regular physical activity.
Simply put, exercise helps make you smarter. Studies show that more active kids do better in school. To help grow your child body physically and mentally, you need to encourage them to get out and get some exercise.
Exercise for Children can Help Improve General Behavior
Finally, not only can exercise help improve schoolwork, exercise for children can also help to improve your child’s general behavior. Some studies have been done on children with behavioral issues which show that physical activity helped to improve behavior in a classroom setting. As we just mentioned, exercise helps release endorphins in the brain which have a significant impact on cognitive abilities as well as mood.
For some children who might struggle with keeping focus and might act out as a result, exercising more could possibly help limit some of their adverse behavior. Furthermore, the endorphins can help children feel better in general, which also might limit negative behavior. Both these affects provide great dividends to parents and caretakers. After all, who wouldn’t want a happier, more focused and engaged child?
Ultimately, exercise impacts how your child feels about themselves and how they interact with the world around them. A child who doesn’t get enough exercise might have low self-esteem and have more feelings of depression. Furthermore, they might not feel connected or focused in on the world around them which can produce negative actions. Help your child improve their well-being and general behavior by simply getting them more active on a more regular basis.
Ways to Encourage Exercise for Children
Now that we have covered the reasons why every child needs to exercise, we next should talk some about how to encourage exercise. For some of us as parents, we feel so busy that we struggle to know how to encourage ourselves to get active. Fortunately, for kids, getting them active can be a whole lot simpler.
Kids don’t need a gym membership to get some exercise. Most of the time, all they need is you pointing them in the right direction and telling them to get moving. To help give them the kick start they need, let’s go over some quick tips for offering encouragement for exercise for children.
Model Healthy Behaviors with Your Own Lifestyle
A first vitally important way to encourage exercise for children is simply through modeling healthy behaviors in your own life. Every child looks to their parents for indicators for their own behavior. Whether or not we realize this as parents, our kids constantly pick up cues on how they should behave and act based on what they observe us doing.
This means that when it comes to exercising, we need to exercise ourselves to encourage it in our children. It’s simply not enough to tell your children that they need to stay active. We need to do more. We need to specifically show our children on a daily basis what a healthy active lifestyle looks like.
This means that anything that you ask your children to do, you need to do yourself. If you ask them to exercise for 30 to 60 minutes every day, you need to do the same thing. Furthermore, you should try to do it where your kids can see you.
Whether you get your exercise in with community sports or by going to the gym, you should try to take your kids along as much as you can. This way, your kids see you exercising and breaking a sweat. After a while, they will pick up the importance of staying active from your behavior and start modeling it themselves.
Encourage Age Appropriate Activities
Secondly, to encourage exercise in children that will stick you need to encourage age appropriate activities. As most parents with multiple children know, one size does not fit all when it comes to activities. While your teenager might really get into joining a community basketball league, your kindergartner might not feel the same enthusiasm.
Instead of trying to force your children into one exercise routine, instead you really need to think about their age and personality. For much younger children, exercise can involve something as simple as a trip to the park or going swimming at the neighborhood pool. For elementary school children, they may want to join community or school sports teams. Other options might include karate or dance lessons. For much older teens, school sports might be the way to go, or they might want to try something different like yoga or recreational sports like hunting or fishing.
If you need some ideas for age appropriate activities, you should consult with your child’s pediatrician. They can give you pointers on what your child may be able to handle as well as what to stay away from. You can also talk to parents of similarly aged children. They may be able to identify some activities their kids enjoy that your children might like also.
Take Opportunities to Go Outside as a Family
Thirdly, another way to encourage exercise for children is through getting your family outside together. No matter our age, almost all of us hate the idea of exercising alone. For adults, the idea of going to a gym or doing some kind of workout regimen by ourselves just feels exhausting.
The same concept applies to kids. Kids rarely want to get out and exercise by themselves. To help encourage them to stay active then, you need to get your whole family moving.
This means that you should get your family out of the house as much as you can. For nice weekends, you can go to the park or the beach or some outdoor venue to play soccer or Frisbee together. Getting out of the house eliminates most of the temptations that keep us sedentary such as watching TV. With getting out as a family, you can find more ways to connect and bound, all while reinforcing a healthy active lifestyle.
Set Limits on Screen Time
Finally, a last way to really encourage exercise for children is through setting limits on screen time. In our world today, we see screens almost everywhere we go. Most of us have multiple TVs in our home, sometimes in nearly every room. Furthermore, we have cell phones, tablets, and computers at our finger tips nearly 24 hours a day. Even if we really wanted to escape screens, we would really struggle to get rid of them completely.
While screens can provide some benefits, they also have downsides and can possibly complicate some issues such as ADHD and sleep problems. They also help to make most of us inactive and stagnant, limiting our physical activity. Having too much of anything can limit its positive benefits and turn it negative. For screen time, this can be especially true as it can quickly take over all your time and energy and drain away your health.
To encourage your children to become more active, you should set daily and weekly limits on screen time. You need to limit the use of TV and computers and even phones on a regular basis. If you fail to do this, then your children will simply settle for playing video games every free minute they have. Limiting the time they have to play games and watch TV, though, forces them to find more creative and active avenues to get energy out.
Making Exercise for Children Make Sense Again
Exercise for children really should be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, in our modern busy tech filled lives, we find ourselves so busy that simple exercise always seems to take a backseat to other interests. Now, we have children who sit inside all day whereas twenty to thirty years ago those same kids would spend all day playing outside. Our society and culture have changed so much so quickly that for some of us exercise just feels almost unnatural.
For parents out there, we want to help reverse this course and help make exercise make sense again. Exercise for children doesn’t have to be difficult. In our overly programmed lives, we often think of what program or club we have to sign up for. For exercise, you don’t need another membership or signup sheet, you just need to get moving.
Hopefully, we have provided some simple points in this article to encourage you and your kids to get active. For children, you really need to encourage them to do physical activity for 30 to 60 minutes every day. That could be as simple as playing soccer in the backyard or going swimming in the community pool.
Exercise can be fun. For kids, it should be fun. Start getting active today and get your kids moving towards a better more healthy life.