More children and teens are overweight or obese now than ever before. Regular physical activity can help prevent serious health problems that are associated with overweight and obesity.
Physical activity also has many other benefits, including the following:
Children 6 years of age and older need at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. This doesn’t have to be done all at one time. It can be done throughout the day in shorter periods of activity.
Just like adults, children need 3 kinds of exercise on a regular basis: aerobic, muscle strengthening, and bone strengthening. Each of these types should be included at least 3 times per week as part of your child’s 60 minutes of daily physical activity.
Aerobic (“cardio”) exercise causes the heart and lungs to work harder than they do when you are resting. Examples of aerobic activities your child may enjoy include the following:
Muscle-strengthening activities build and maintain muscles. They also improve balance. Examples include the following:
Bone-strengthening exercises help bones grow and stay strong. Examples include the following:
When it comes to physical activity, there is something for everyone. By trying different activities, your child can find something that is a good fit for his or her personality.
Encourage your child to try team or group activities, such as soccer, gymnastics, basketball, t-ball, softball, or bowling, but be sure you’re not putting pressure on your child. Keep in mind that some children enjoy the social aspects of team sports, but other children may feel pressured or embarrassed competing on a team. These children may prefer other types of group activities, such as playing tag or hide-and-seek.
Activities that can be done alone may appeal to some children. Examples of this type of activity include riding a bike, playing on a jungle gym, playing with the family pet, jumping on a trampoline, walking, or skating.
Be a healthy role model for your child. Be physically active in your daily life, and plan active family outings. One way you can begin to build activity into your family’s lifestyle is to celebrate with action! Instead of having a sugary treat, celebrate milestones as a family by doing something active, such as hiking, swimming, or playing volleyball together.
Screen time includes watching TV or DVDs, playing video or computer games, and surfing the Internet. These activities are usually done while sitting or standing still. Try to limit your child’s total daily screen time to 1 to 2 hours or less. Remember that you’re a role model for your child. Set a good example by limiting your own screen time.
Some video game systems include low levels of physical activity, such as games that mimic the motions of dancing, bowling, tennis, and other sports. Although playing these games is better than sitting still, it’s best to limit these video games when you limit your child’s screen time. Encourage your child to dance, bowl, and play tennis or other sports in real life, not just in a video game.
Another way to include physical activity in screen time is to encourage your child to be active while watching a TV show or playing a video game. For example, he or she can do jumping jacks during commercials or jog in place while enjoying a show.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Physical Activity for Everyone: How much physical activity do children need?. Accessed January 14, 2011
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tips for Parents—Ideas to Help Children Maintain a Healthy Weight. Accessed January 14, 2011
National Diabetes Education Program. Tips for Teens with Diabetes: Be Active. Accessed January 14, 2011
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. National Institutes of Health. We Can! Get Active. Accessed January 14, 2011
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff