We are living in an age where technology has taken over so much of our time. Kids are spending more time in front of televisions and IPADs. We can probably all agree this has been exacerbated by COVID. Homeschooling and the closure of sports venues, competitive sports, pools and recreation facilities has fueled the problem.
Regardless of age, exercise should be a part of our daily lives.
Some of the benefits of exercise include:
- Strengthens muscles and bones
- Helps maintain healthy joints
- Improves coordination and balance
- Increases flexibility
- Improves posture
- Helps maintain a healthy body weight
- Improves mood, reducing anxiety and depression
- Aids sleep
- Increases general fitness and improves heart and lung function
- Social benefits (making friends through team sports)
- Mental health benefits including increasing confidence and self expression
Different exercise guidelines have been set out for children, based on their age.
Exercise for babies and young children
Physical activity starts as a newborn. Children under 1 year of age should be physically active through activities such as tummy time. Activities can progress to rolling, sitting and crawling.
As babies grow, their physical activity requirements change. Toddlers can achieve their exercise requirements through play and outdoor activities such as running and jumping.
As children get older, their physical activities can include swimming, bike riding and climbing. Play and sport activities can be progressed as skills develop.
Children aged 1-4 years should be completing at least 3 hours of physical activity per day. This sounds like a lot but think about how much running around little kids do at the park. This is all included in their activity quota. Children don’t need to be completing large amounts of intense exercise. Rather, this can be broken up into 15-30 minute blocks throughout the day.
Exercise for youth and teens
Physical activity includes cardiovascular exercise and strengthening exercises. Children aged 5–17 should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity daily. Amounts of activity greater than 60 minutes provide additional health benefits. Most of this physical activity should be aerobic cardiovascular exercise. Vigorous intensity activities should be incorporated, including those that strengthen muscle and bones. Sports involving running, jumping and kicking will do just this. Children from 5 years should be partaking in these sorts of physical activities at least 3 times per week.
Lead by example
It is important that as parents, we promote physical activity to our children. We should be encouraging children to go out and play or introducing them to team sports. Children also learn by example. Set a good example by showing your kids that exercise is an important part of your life. Incorporate exercise into your family time and make it fun and enjoyable so your kids want to participate.
One of the many challenges this year has been the suspension of junior sports and the closure of recreational venues. We’re fortunate however that playgrounds are back open. We also have plenty of great walking/ bike-riding/ scooting paths around our area.
Wet weather ideas
On cold and rainy days when getting outside for exercise isn’t an option, use that screen time proactively. Get your kids doing online exercise sessions such as this one on our youtube channel. Alternatively there’s no shortage of online sessions, kids zumba and dance classes. You could set up obstacle courses or even just dress up warmly and brave some puddle jumping!
For more information about exercise speak to one of our physiotherapists. We can help guide you on how to incorporate exercise into your child’s lifestyle.
Check out some of our other blog posts related to exercise:
World Health Organisation: https://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/factsheet_young_people/en/