Physical activity is vital for both children and adults for overall health. The most obvious benefits are to our physical health by reducing the risk of major illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Research also shows that physical activity can benefit mental health. It can boost mood, improve sleep, and reduce stress.
However, it can be hard to find the time to include exercise in busy modern life. This applies to children as well as adults. This article will discuss some of the activity recommendations for children. It will also suggest some helpful ways they can be incorporated into everyday family life.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends around 60 minutes of ‘moderate’ physical activity a day for children aged 5-18. This should be a combination of both aerobic exercise and exercise that strengthens muscles. Children need to get this exercise to build overall fitness and also to improve key skills such as hand-eye coordination, balance, and flexibility.
So, what does ‘moderate’ mean? In this case, moderate applies to many different types of activity that get you breathing faster and feeling warmer. Some examples include a quick walk to school, playground activities, skateboarding and, cycling.
Also, exercises that can help build strong muscles and bones include: skipping, gymnastics, climbing, dance and, football
It is important to try and make this as fun as possible. This helps children to have a good relationship with exercise as they grow. Ideas for making exercise a fun part of everyday life include:
- Leading by example – if children see their parents having a fun and healthy relationship with exercise, they are likely to feel the same.
- It does not have to be organized around sport– children can still get exercise through activities such as family walks or playing games they make up themselves.
- Make chores fun – maybe give children a small patch in the garden where they can look after their plants, or have a leaderboard for the fastest time doing cleaning tasks.
- Let them bring a friend – having someone to talk to and play with might make family activities more fun.
- Limit screen time – Allowing children to find new and inventive ways to entertain themselves will usually keep kids more active.
Physical activity is also even more important for children under 5. They should spend around 3 hours a day moving, and not spend too long in each day sitting still or in front of screens. Some activities that can incorporate movement for under 5s include:
- Playing with blocks or building with other objects.
- Messy play.
- Hide and seek.
- Throwing and catching.
Building a healthy amount of activity into children’s routines will help to create a positive relationship with exercise. This will help to set them up with a happy and healthy life.