Children's Exercise Guide: Why Kids Need Exercise

Games you and your babysitter can do with kids that will boost their heart rate, keep them entertained and inspire healthy habits.

Kids needing exercise in their lives is not a newsflash. We've all heard about the positive effects of exercise. Now think about them as they relate to your child. Regular physical activity helps children build healthy bodies and prevent chronic disease. Here's why:

  • Develops muscle strength. Muscle strength helps to reduce children's risk of injury. Lifting things including their own body weight keeps them strong and limber, so they feel well and function optimally.
  • Improves cardiovascular capacity. Moving vigorously cultivates a healthy heart and lungs. Prevent Hypertension (abnormally high blood pressure) which can develop during childhood. Regular physical activity can substantially lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease.
  • Keeps bones strong. The crucial time to build bones starts before the teen years and lasts until the mid-20s, when bones grow to their maximum thickness. Prevent Osteoporosis with weight-bearing activity like jump rope, running games, pivoting and balancing.
  • Decreases body fat. Aerobic activity and strength training help children expend energy (calories), which helps them with weight control and positive body fat distribution.
  • Maintains a steady, healthy weight. Movement and a healthy diet, combined with reducing sedentary behaviors like watching TV, videos and computer games help to prevent obesity, which in turn can help prevent Type 2 Diabetes.

Another fact? Regular physical activity helps children mentally. Here's why:

  • Enhances self-esteem. As children exercise, their strength increases, and so does their psychological well-being. They gain confidence and become more comfortable in their own skin. (Often this results in their trying other physical activities like swimming, climbing, or team sports.)
  • Reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety. Physical activity actually changes your brain chemistry and improves your frame of mind. For instance, exercise increases levels of serotonin, a chemical that some depressed children have in short supply.
  • Increases concentration and alertness. Exercise releases 'endorphins,' feel-good chemicals that act on the brain as natural tranquilizers. Studies have shown endorphin-rich movement improves mental focus and cognitive skills.
  • Boosts energy levels. Movement stimulates attention and energy levels due to improved circulation and blood flow, delivering oxygen and nutrients to your tissues.
  • Controls mood swings. Exercise calms kids down and stabilizes their mood swings, thus making good behavior more likely.
  • Fosters feelings of happiness. Fun, physical activities and mental stimulation -with family and friends in a supportive environment - give children the sense they have achieved something new and challenging. They feel better. They feel happy.

 

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