For many kids and teens the last year and a half has caused disruption to their extracurricular sports and physical activity. Combine that with the extra screen time, and we have a lot of kids who aren’t getting their required amount of exercise to maintain a healthy lifestyle. So how much exercise do kids really need?
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that “children and adolescents ages 6 through 17 years should do 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity each day.” An example of moderate intensity activity is when your child walks the dog at a good pace so their heart is beating faster than normal but they are not out of breath. Vigorous intensity exercise would include running on the field in a soccer game or playing tag with friends. This type of exercise will allow the heart to beat much faster than when resting and they will be breathing much harder than normal.
In order to be healthy, children and adolescents require a variety of physical activity including:
Aerobic Activity: Running, biking, fast walking; anything that makes their heart beat faster is considered aerobic activity. This is the type of physical activity that should make up most of the 60 minutes each day.
Strengthening Activity: It is also important for kids and teens to do strengthening activities. This does not mean lifting weights but could include activities such as climbing or swinging on the monkey bars or doing push ups.
Flexibility Activity: Activities that include stretching such as yoga, touching toes, reaching arms to the sky all help to improve range of motion and allow the joints to move easily.
KidsHealth.org provides the following tips on how to encourage your kids to enjoy a healthy lifestyle:
· Set up a regular schedule for physical activity
· Encourage being active as part of your daily life, ie. Walk to school instead of getting a ride
· Be a positive role model yourself. If your kids see you incorporating physical activity into your life they will be more inclined to be active as well
· Try to keep it fun! Physical activity doesn’t have to be following workout videos and lifting weights. Get outside for a bike ride, play hide and seek, have a game of basketball or a neighbourhood dodgeball competition.
Children and adolescents who are active have better bone and muscle strength, less risk of becoming overweight, a lower chance of type 2 diabetes and are often better at handling physical and emotional challenges. Not to mention that staying active enhances a child’s school performance as it helps with focus, better problem-solving skills and improved learning.
Appropriate levels of physical activity can have a positive impact on anxiety and mental health. When we are physically active endorphins, which are known as “feel-good” chemicals in the brain are released into the body which help to improve mood and energy levels. Being physically active also helps kids and teens appreciate their bodies and in turn helps to build self-esteem and positive body image.
There are many great reasons to get kids up and moving! If 60 minutes a day is not an attainable goal just yet, start with 10 or 20 minutes. Anything is better than nothing! Be sure to keep physical activity fun and have lots of variety and in no time your kids will be hooked and loving their active lifestyle!
Physical activity: Benefits of exercise for health and wellbeing
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention: How much physical activity do children need?
KidsHealth.org Kids and Exercise