By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)
As a child, I never thought about exercise or even knew what that meant. We would bike ride, roller skate, or run around the block or throughout our neighborhood. We spent most of our playtime outside always moving. Even in the winter, we were skating for hours on the outside ice rink or sliding up and down, “Monkey Hill.” The great feat was trucking back up the big hill to slide back down again. I rarely sat still, watching TV was something we only did on Saturday mornings, and computers and video games were not yet in the homes of American families.
Today, families are bombarded with social media and digital gadgets. In fact, children spend an average of three hours a day watching television! Children no longer run around the neighborhood all day returning home when the streetlights turn on. Children spend more time in-doors, spending less time moving and more time sitting still. Exercise is now something that needs to be planned or embedded into the day’s schedule. From the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention states that, “Children should be getting at least one- hour of physical activity every day.” In order for children to be healthy, physical activity is essential.
Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore or work . . . it should be fun! Large motor development is significant for growing children. Physical activity should be age-appropriate. For young children, exercise is using their muscles and simply moving their bodies. Parents play a significant part in helping their child become more physically active. Listed below are 11 ways suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics to get started:
- Talk with your pediatrician. Your pediatrician can help your child understand why physical activity is important. Your pediatrician also can suggest a sports activity that is best for your child.
- Find a fun activity. Help your child find a sport that she enjoys. The more she enjoys the activity, the more likely it is that she will continue. Get the entire family involved. It is a great way to spend time together.
- Choose an activity that is developmentally appropriate. For example, a seven-year old in not ready for weight lifting or a three-mile run, but soccer, bike riding, and swimming are appropriate activities.
- Plan ahead. Make sure your child has a convenient time and place to exercise.
- Provide a safe environment. Make sure your child’s equipment and chosen site for the sport or activity are safe. Make sure your child’s clothing is comfortable and appropriate.
- Provide active toys. Young children especially need easy access to balls, jump ropes and other active toys.
- Be a role model. Children who regularly see their parents enjoying sports and physical activity are more likely to do so themselves.
- Play with your child. Help her learn a new sport.
- Turn off the TV! Limit television watching and computer or digital game use. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one to two hours of total screen time, including TV, videos, computers, and video games each day. Use the free time for more physical activities.
- Make time for exercise. Some children are so over-scheduled with homework, music lessons, and other planned activities that they do not have time for exercise.
- Do not overdo it. When your child is ready to start, remember to tell her to listen to her body. Exercise and physical activity should not hurt. If this occurs, your child should slow down or try a less vigorous activity. As with any activity, it is important not to overdo it.
Source: Encourage Your Child to Be Physically Active (Copyright © 2003 American Academy of Pediatrics, Last updated 6/3/2013)
Physical activity begins as young as infancy from tummy time to crawling. Physical activity should be enjoyment for children. Physical activity promotes a healthy body and life style. Just get your body moving and have your children involved by going for a bike ride, nature walk, or building a snowman. There are many benefits to exercise from a better nights sleep, maintaining a healthier body, and improving motor coordination (just to name a few).
“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” ~Jim Ryan. I hope you become motivated to incorporate exercise into your family life. Physical activity doesn’t have to be labor; we just need to strive to find the time for physical play and enjoyment! As famously put by Nike, “Just Do It!”
Here are some resources on physical activity for children:
Exercise For Kids
Kids Exercise: The 4 Types You Need
The Many Benefits of Exercise
25 Exercise Games and Activities
Physical Activity in Early Childhood