Did you know that our bodies are designed to move from the moment we are born? However, there’s a tendency to assume that young children are naturally active, just because they appear ‘busy’, but that’s a huge myth. Exercise for kids, rather than just being busy, is so important for a number of reasons I’ll explain below.
EXERCISE FOR KIDS ISN’T HAPPENING
However, the sad truth is that due to urbanization and safety issues, many children don’t have the space or freedom to run and around and play like some of our previous generations did. Some experts even claim that the feet of some toddlers barely touch the ground, because when they’re not being strapped into a pram or carried, they’re in a highchair or in front of the TV.
Nowadays, many kids (and adults alike) would much rather spend their time watching TV, or playing games on a mobile phone or tablet. It takes consistent encouragement from us as parents to get our kids outside, to allow them to play without overscheduling them with extra mural activities, and to be role models by living active lives ourselves. Because, the truth is, exercise for kids is so important. Without it, our little one’s will fail to thrive.
CHILDHOOD OBESITY IS REAL!
Childhood obesity rates are continuing to rise across the globe, thanks to a poor diet and lack of focused activity. Studies show that fewer than 25% of children get the recommended 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per day recommended by the American Medical Association. In fact, the latest research has shown that today’s children could be the first generation to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents thanks to unhealthier lifestyles leading to conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. Wow, that’s a scary statistic! But the good news is, you can change this in your family by promoting healthy lifestyle habits, including regular exercise, from the minute your kids become mobile.
ALSO SEE: Building Super Kids
CHILDREN LEARN THROUGH ACTIVE PLAY
Did you know that children learn more physical skills in their first five years than at any other time in their life? Exercise is critical for kids because it teaches them about their body and how it moves, it helps them to reach all their developmental milestones and it helps to build a healthy body, inside and out. According to Harvard researchers, exercising regularly, every day if possible, is the single most important thing you can do for your health – as a child and an adult!
Here are the top 12 reasons why exercise for kids is so important and why helping them become active is worth the effort:
Develops muscle strength
Muscle strength helps to reduce children’s risk of injury. Lifting things, including their own body weight, keeps them healthy and limber, so they feel well and function optimally.
Improves cardiovascular capacity
Moving vigorously cultivates a healthy heart and lungs and helps prevent hypertension (abnormally high blood pressure), which can develop during childhood. Regular physical activity also can substantially lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease.
Keeps bones strong
The crucial time to build bones starts before the teen years and lasts until the mid-20s, which is when bones grow to their maximum thickness. You can help your kids prevent the onset of osteoporosis by encouraging them to do weight-bearing activities like jump rope, running games, pivoting and balancing.
Decreases body fat
Aerobic activity and strength training help children expend energy (calories), which helps them with weight control and positive body fat distribution. Just a note, kids under the age of 8 shouldn’t be lifting heavy weights. Body weight and resistance bands are more than sufficient.
Maintains a steady, healthy weight
Movement and a healthy diet, combined with reducing sedentary behaviours like watching TV and playing computer games help to prevent obesity, which in turn can help prevent the onset of Type 2 Diabetes.
Better sleep habits overall
Every parents’ dream!
Then on the psychological, wellbeing side of things:
As children exercise, their strength increases, and so does their self-esteem. They gain confidence and become more comfortable in their own skin.
Reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety
Physical activity can change your brain chemistry and improve your frame of mind. For instance, exercise has been shown to increase levels of serotonin, which can contribute to reduced feelings of depression.
Increases concentration and alertness
Exercise releases endorphins, which are the feel-good chemicals that act on the brain as natural tranquilizers.
Boosts energy levels
Movement stimulates attention and energy levels due to improved circulation and blood flow. This helps your body deliver more oxygen and essential nutrients to your tissues, which, in turn, allows you to do more — and feel better — throughout the day.
Controls mood swings
Exercise can help calm kids down and stabilize their mood swings, thus making good behaviour more likely.
Fosters feelings of happiness
Fun, physical activities and mental stimulation with family and friends in a supportive environment give children the sense that they’ve achieved something new and challenging. They feel better. They feel happy.