Just as for adults, it’s important that children exercise regularly. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children and adolescents ages six and older get at least an hour a day (total) of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity. They should also participate in such bone-strengthening activities as jumping rope or running at least three days a week.
Children younger than six should get at least three hours of being physically active, spread throughout the day.
The Mayo Clinic reminds parents that including physical activity in a child’s daily routine sets the foundation for a lifetime of fitness and good health.
Many benefits of exercise
The resulting health benefits for children are myriad.
- Exercise strengthens their heart, lungs, bones, muscles, and joints.
- It improves coordination, strength, and muscle control.
- They become more flexible and improve their balance and posture.
- They will be more likely to maintain healthy body weight.
- Exercise also develops vital connections in the brain, which improves concentration, thinking, and memory skills.
- It’s an ideal stress reliever, reducing anxiety and depression.
- Regular exercise will also enhance their ability to cope with problems without the use of drugs or alcohol.
Do it together
The best way to encourage your child to get enough exercise is to make it a family project.
“You are a role model, and your child is more likely to be physically active if you make physical activity a family priority,” the Mayo Clinic says.
In addition to the play they receive at school or through organized sports, other possibilities for family exercise time include bike rides, hiking, or even just regular walks around the neighborhood, dancing together, playing games in the yard, the park, or at the beach, or gardening.
Above all, teach your kids that exercise can be fun!