The Importance of Exercise in the Life of a Child: Why It Matters & How to Encourage Movement
Most of us know the importance of staying active for our personal health, but it’s easy to forget about our children. Though you may assume school-age children are getting enough physical activity during their physical education classes, you might be surprised just how much targeted exercise children need to stay strong and healthy. And, given the tech-centric world children are growing up in, it’s easy for them to forgo outside activity for electronic stimulation.
Today, we’ll talk about why exercise is so critical to healthy development and ways you can encourage your kids to participate in healthy movement.
Is Exercise Really That Important?
The short answer is … yes! During a child’s formative years (and even into adolescence), children are developing habits that will impact them for the rest of their lives. This is why it is so critical to get kids into the habit of enjoying exercise at a young age. Children who are physically active are more likely to enjoy a healthy adulthood.
We all know toddlers and pre-school aged children move a lot. Encourage a variety of activities like running, crawling, skipping, and jumping to lay the groundwork for enjoying exercise in the future.
Grade-school aged children should be provided plenty of opportunities to engage in physical activity. Team sports are a great option!
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every child aged 6 – 17 should engage in moderate to vigorous activity for at least one hour each day.
Exercises should include:
- Moderate to vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days each week
- Muscle strengthening activities (such as climbing, pushups, even supervised weight training) at least 3 days each week
- Bone strengthening activities (such as running and jumping) at least 3 days each week
How Can I Encourage My Child to Exercise?
The key to making physical activity a life-long love for children is to start early. Young children love to move! Make the most of that drive and encourage plenty of unstructured movement to lay the foundation for an active lifestyle.
Other tips include:
- Be a good example – let your children see how much you love fitness. Take them to a mommy-and-me yoga class. Let them watch you participate in a 5K. Show them how much fun being active can be.
- Make activity a family affair – Get the gang together and go for a hike or a walk on the beach. Schedule game night but, instead of playing a board game, have a hula hoop competition. Set up an obstacle course in the back yard or park. Have a parent/kid dance off. Whatever it takes, get them moving…and make it fun!
The benefits of instilling a love of fitness in children will stay with them for years to come. Children are naturally fun loving and active—channel that youthful energy and watch them embrace feeling strong and healthy.
Here’s to celebrating health and wellness with even our youngest athletes!
CDC – How Much Activity Do Children Need?
CDC – Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans