This is Part 13 in a multi-week series of blogs focused on the ABC’s for Healthy Kids. Learn more at www.snohd.org/healthykids.
Top Three Take-Aways:
- Exercise = better health, physically and mentally.
- Most young children love to move, which is an opportunity to start building good habits.
- There are so many ways to move your body. Encourage kids and teens to learn what exercises they enjoy, and how to do them safely.
Movement matters at all ages
The human body is meant to move, and regular exercise is crucial to staying healthy. The more you move, the better able you are to keep moving to improve your health. Exercise is linked to better sleep, mood, focus, and overall wellness.
Preschool-age children should be moving throughout the day. Aim for at least three hours of active play. It’s key to children’s growth and development. Plus, young kids usually love to move – it's a great time to start getting them interested in lots of different games and activities and to build healthy habits.
School-age kids and teens should get at least one hour of physical activity every day, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Organized sports through schools or clubs are a fantastic option to stay active, though some older kids and teens might prefer to exercise outside of team environments by walking, jogging, going to the gym, bicycling, skateboarding, and more. There are some fun smartphone apps and video games designed to encourage fitness, too.
Adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week, with muscle-strengthening activities on at least two days per week. An adult is a lot more likely to be successful in meeting their exercise goals if they’ve built good habits during their child and teen years, though it’s never too late to start a new healthy routine.
Keep things positive
Take time to explore the types of physical activity your kids genuinely enjoy. Encourage them and push them to keep on moving. Remember, though, that pushing too hard or pushing for something that doesn’t work for your child can be harmful.
Children and teens experience a lot of changes as their bodies grow and develop. Help them excel in their chosen activities while understanding their limits and appreciating what they are capable of. You can play hard and love a sport without being the best on the team. You can exercise and eat healthy, and still wear a larger clothing size than your friends. You can struggle with motivation for a while and still get back at it anytime.
Set a good example and help children and teens build movement into their daily routines in a positive way.
- Any activity that gets the heart pumping counts. While it’s important to have some vigorous exercise to strengthen muscles and bones, like playing sports or doing targeted workouts, most of your kids’ exercise can be focused on getting their heart to beat faster. Walk or run, bicycle or swim, burn up some energy at the local playground – there are plenty of possibilities.
- Every little bit helps. Any amount of physical activity has some benefit. Making time for moderate or vigorous movement is wonderful, but don’t get discouraged when you don't have time to take the little ones to the park or when there’s a lull in sports seasons for the older kids. Keep them moving in whatever ways you can. It all adds up.
- Get up and move with them. Take a walk with your kids, follow on foot while they climb around a playground, or turn on some music and have an impromptu dance party inside on a rainy day. Being sedentary increases the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. So stand up, move around, and set a strong example for your kids while you improve your own health.
- Exercise is an immediate win. Physical activity pays off in long-term health, but also in short-term benefits. It can reduce anxiety and aid sleep. For youth, physical activity supports the health of their brain and can improve focus and cognition. It can also help reduce the risk of depression. Longer term, exercise can reduce the risk of certain cancers, dementia, stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and more.
Young children are particularly apt to embrace new types of movement. They see something they want to try, and they go for it.
That’s a great attitude to bring to exercise. It also can be a risky one as kids become more capable of trying new movements, but not necessarily more knowledgeable about how to do them properly.
If your child is showing interest in specific activities or sports, try to find someone who can teach them. This can be accomplished by joining a team, club or lessons. Intense physical sports or activities can cause injuries for amateurs who attempt to do them without the right technique. Knowing how to move properly can reduce the risk of injury or long-term negative impacts on the body.
Any sport is best done with an understanding of rules and best practices. Children should learn how to stretch and warm-up before too much vigorous activity, as well as what gear they may need to wear and how to handle specific sports equipment without accidentally hurting themselves or others.
Here are some ideas for getting your kids involved and learning about the exercises they enjoy:
- Youth sports clubs. Many communities have local organizations for sports such as soccer, baseball or softball. It can be a fairly inexpensive option for preschool and school-age kids.
- Summer camps. This can be a good way to get kids moving and learning more activities while they are out of school for the summer.
- Community organizations such as the YMCA of Snohomish County and Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County offer youth activities and sports.
- Privately owned gyms or lessons for specific sports and activities are another option, especially for things like climbing, gymnastics or dance.
Take some time now to check off the “M” in the ABC’s for healthy kids. How do you and your family like to move your bodies?
Building good exercise habits from a young age will pay off for the rest of children’s lives.