Why kids need exercise

It's no news flash that kids need exercise in their lives. In fact, we're all probably pretty aware of the fact that increased physical activity helps children build healthy bodies and prevent chronic disease. And we also know that helping our kids to love movement sets them up to be stronger and healthier teens and adults.

But, what we may not be as familiar with is the "how" and "why." 

To help answer these questions — and to give you and your babysitter or nanny added incentives — we've listed out the specific physical and psychological benefits that can come from having your child engage in regular exercise.

How exercise helps children’s physical development

1. Develops muscle strength

Muscle strength helps to reduce children's risk of injury. Lifting things, including their own body weight, keeps them healthy and limber, so they feel well and function optimally.

2. Improves cardiovascular capacity 

Moving vigorously cultivates a healthy heart and lungs and helps prevent hypertension (abnormally high blood pressure), which can develop during childhood. Regular physical activity also can substantially lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease.

3. Keeps bones strong

The crucial time to build bones starts before the teen years and lasts until the mid-20s, which is when bones grow to their maximum thickness. You can help your kids prevent the onset of osteoporosis by encouraging them to do weight-bearing activities like jump rope, running games, pivoting and balancing.

4. Decreases body fat

Aerobic activity and strength training help children expend energy (calories), which helps them with weight control and positive body fat distribution.

5. Maintains a steady, healthy weight

Movement and a healthy diet, combined with reducing sedentary behaviors like watching TV and playing computer games help to prevent obesity, which in turn can help prevent the onset of Type 2 Diabetes.

How exercise helps children's psychological well-being

6. Enhances self-esteem 

As children exercise, their strength increases and so does their self-esteem. They gain confidence and become more comfortable in their own skin.

7. Reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety

Physical activity can change your brain chemistry and improve your frame of mind. For instance, exercise has been shown to increase levels of serotonin, which can contribute to reduced feelings of depression.

8. Increases concentration and alertness

Exercise releases endorphins, which are the feel-good chemicals that act on the brain as natural tranquilizers. Studies have shown that endorphin-rich movement improves mental focus and cognitive skills.

9. Boosts energy levels

Movement stimulates attention and energy levels due to improved circulation and blood flow. This helps your body deliver more oxygen and essential nutrients to your tissues, which, in turn, allows you to do more  — and feel better — throughout the day.

10. Controls mood swings

Exercise can help calm kids down and stabilize mood swings, thus making good behavior more likely.

11. Fosters feelings of happiness

Fun, physical activities and mental stimulation with family and friends in a supportive environment give children the sense that they've achieved something new and challenging. They feel better. They feel happy.

* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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