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Keeping Kids Active: Benefitting Body and Mind

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Keeping Kids Active: Benefitting Body and Mind

Physical activity is important for all of us, regardless of age or demographic. However for children in particular, regular exercise is essential for healthy growth and development. With childhood obesity continually an issue in the United States, destinations ranging from elementary schools to private fitness gyms are promoting a fit lifestyle for kids of all ages. Exercise is important for children for many reasons, including:

  • Burning calories instead of storing them as body fat
  • Keeping blood sugar levels balanced
  • Lowering blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Developing strong bones and muscle
  • Building strength
  • Improving mental and emotional health
  • Boosting self-esteem

When calories are burned through active play, it greatly reduces the child’s risk of becoming overweight in adulthood. Also reducing diabetes risk, physical activity can help children feel confident about their appearance and provide them with proper levels of mental focus and endurance to thrive in school, sports teams and beyond.

How Much Should Children Exercise?

Children above the age of 2 require at least an hour of physical activity daily. Unfortunately, current physical fitness “hours” in schools rarely last for that long, and of course aren’t in effect on weekends or holidays. True responsibility for a fit lifestyle rests in the hands of parents, who should encourage their children to be active for at least 60 minutes. This does not need to be done in one dose – break it up throughout the day with a morning walk, an afternoon swim or any other moving activity your child enjoys.

How to Get Going

Since youngsters learn by example, one of the best ways to motivate your child to become physically fit is by living a healthy lifestyle yourself. Offer to exercise alongside your kids. This can be done in many forms including:

  • Joining a family-friendly gym. Many offer special programs for kids.
  • Signing up for a class together at your local recreation center.
  • Carving out a regularly scheduled time to go to the park and play.
  • Finding a new hiking or cycling spot close to home.
  • Purchasing groceries at a local farmer’s market, walking the booths and learning about healthy eating.
  • Turning off the TV.

Getting Back to Basics

Technology has caused a great detriment to our children’s health and fitness. The average 8-18 year old spends approximately six hours per day in front of the television, computer and video game console. More children than ever before have TVs in the room, often falling asleep to the white noise of streaming programming. This compromises the quality of rest an individual receives, which can lead to growth and development issues. Limiting technology time at home is a powerful way to encourage physical activity and healthy interaction with each other.

Exercising Creativity

Parents who work full-time or feel they have too many other responsibilities to fit in regular outings can still get creative with physical fitness at home. Consider writing an email to your child’s school principal suggesting new activity options for the classroom or during after school hours. Or, encourage fitness around the house.

Children can log some activity time by completing chores. Wiping down counters and sinks, folding laundry and putting toys away are all great ways to keep the house clean while staying active at the same time. Walking to school, the grocery store or other nearby destinations is another possibility. While it may take a bit more time, it’s an ideal way to exercise while reaching essential destinations. Finally, consider giving the gift of physical fitness during the holidays and on birthdays. Hula hoops, physically interactive video games, jump ropes, trampolines, backyard water slides and t-ball are all examples of gifts that keep kids active and stimulated.

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