Exercise and Children

footballAccording to a study done by the National Children and Youth Fitness Study:

  • At least half of youth do not engage in physical activity that promotes long-term health.
  • Fewer than 36 percent of elementary and secondary schools offer daily physical education classes.
  • Most classes were unlikely to foster lifelong physical activity.

Exercise is an important part of keeping children healthy. Encouraging healthy lifestyles in children and teens is important for when they grow older. Lifestyles that are learned in childhood are more likely to stay with the child into adulthood. Changes in lifestyle are harder to make the older the person becomes. The best way to promote healthy lifestyles is for the whole family to become involved. 

A daily exercise program can provide a way to share an activity with family and friends and help create good heart-healthy habits. For children over the age of 6, the following exercise guidelines can help you and your child plan activities: 

Type of activity Days /
week
Exercise
time
Examples
of activities
LightEvery day30 mins. /
day
Pleasure walking, climbing stairs, dancing, home exercise
Light to moderateFour to six days / week30 mins. /
day
Jogging, playing baseball, shooting basketball, throwing a football, kicking a soccer ball, playing on the playground
Strenuous, aerobicThree times / week30 mins. /
day
Running, swimming, cycling, roller skating, jumping rope, dancing, hiking, soccer, tag games, gymnastics

More vigorous aerobic activities are best for improving the fitness of the heart and lungs.  Aerobic activities are continuous activities that cause the heart rate to increase and cause the breathing rate to increase.  Regular aerobic physical activity increases a child's capacity for exercise and plays a role in prevention of heart diseases. Aerobic exercise may also help to lower blood pressure.

Exercise on a regular basis is part of a healthy lifestyle. However, some children can exercise too much. If your child begins losing weight and falls below his/her normal growth patterns, or if exercise interferes with other normal activities and school, talk with your child's physician.

For children and teens, daily exercise may help prevent conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, poor cholesterol levels, and poor lifestyle habits that may lead to heart conditions later in life. Research shows that children who grow up with healthy exercise habits are more likely to continue those habits as adults.

The following are just some of the benefits that regular exercise or physical activity provides:

  • Improves blood flow
  • Keeps weight under control
  • Improves blood cholesterol levels
  • Prevents and manages high blood pressure
  • Prevents bone loss
  • Boosts energy level
  • Releases tension
  • Improves the ability to fall asleep quickly and sleep well
  • Improves self-image
  • Helps manage stress
  • Counters anxiety and depression
  • Increases enthusiasm and optimism
  • Builds strong muscles and bones

Last Updated 09/2013