Why is exercise or physical activity important for my child?
Just like in adults, increased physical activity has been associated with an increased life expectancy and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Physical activity produces overall physical, psychological and social benefits.
Inactive children are likely to become inactive adults.
Physical activity helps with:
- controlling weight
- reducing blood pressure
- raising HDL (“good”) cholesterol
- reducing the risk of diabetes and some kinds of cancer
- improved psychological well-being, including gaining more self-confidence and higher self-esteem
How do I promote physical activity in my child?
- Physical activity should be increased by reducing sedentary time (e.g., watching television, playing computer video games or talking on the phone).
- Physical activity should be fun for children and adolescents.
- Parents should try to be role models for active lifestyles and provide children with opportunities for increased physical activity.
What if my child is uncoordinated or overweight?
All children, even less-coordinated ones, need to be physically active. Activity may be particularly helpful for the physical and psychological well-being of children with a weight problem.
All children age 2 and older should:
- Participate in at least 60 minutes of enjoyable, moderate-intensity physical activities every day that are developmentally appropriate and varied.
- If your child or children don’t have a full 60-minute activity break each day, try to provide at least two 30-minute periods or four AHA 15-minute periods in which they can engage in vigorous activities appropriate to their age, gender and stage of physical and emotional development.
Recommended levels of physical activity for children aged 5 – 17 years (WHO)
For children and young people, physical activity includes play, games, sports, transportation, chores, recreation, physical education, or planned exercise, in the context of family, school, and community activities. In order to improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, bone health, and cardiovascular and metabolic health biomarkers:
- Children and youth aged 5–17 should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily.
- Amounts of physical activity greater than 60 minutes provide additional health benefits.
- Most of the daily physical activity should be aerobic. Vigorous-intensity activities should be incorporated, including those that strengthen muscle and bone*, at least 3 times per week.
*For this age group, bone-loading activities can be performed as part of playing games, running, turning or jumping
How much physical activity do children under five years old need to do to keep healthy?
(according to UK GUIDLINES)
Being physically active every day is important for the healthy growth and development of babies, toddlers and preschoolers. For this age group, activity of any intensity should be encouraged, including light activity and more energetic physical activity.
Babies should be encouraged to be active throughout the day, every day. Before your baby begins to crawl, encourage them to be physically active by reaching and grasping, pulling and pushing, moving their head, body and limbs during daily routines, and during supervised floor play, including tummy time. Once babies can move around, encourage them to be as active as possible in a safe, supervised and nurturing play environment.
For more ideas, see Keeping kids active.
Children who can walk on their own should be physically active every day for at least 180 minutes (three hours). This should be spread throughout the day, indoors or outside. The 180 minutes can include light activity such as standing up, moving around, rolling and playing, as well as more energetic activity like skipping, hopping, running and jumping. Active play, such as using a climbing frame, riding a bike, playing in water, chasing games and ball games, is the best way for this age group to get moving.
All children aged under five
Children under five should not be inactive for long periods, except when they’re asleep. Watching TV, travelling by car, bus or train, or being strapped into a buggy for long periods are not good for a child’s health and development. There’s growing evidence that such behaviour can increase their risk of poor health.
All children under five who are overweight can improve their health by meeting the activity guidelines, even if their weight doesn’t change. To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, they may need to do additional activity and make dietary changes.
What counts as light activity for children?
Light activity for children includes a range of activities, such as:
- standing up
- moving around
- less energetic play
What counts as energetic activity for children?
- active play (such as hide and seek and stuck in the mud)
- running around
- jumping on a trampoline
- riding a bike
- skipping rope
Energetic activity for children will make kids “huff and puff” and can include organised activities, such as dance and gymnastics. Any sort of active play will usually include bursts of energetic activity.