April 11, 2016

by Mankato Clinic

Between juggling school, family, friends, and activities it’s no secret that kids have their hands full. As parents it’s our responsibility to make sure that our children are maintaining healthy life habits.  Ensuring that they get enough daily physical activity is just as important as making sure that they are eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep.

We know that everyone benefits from regular exercise, but kids who are active tend to have stronger muscles and bones, be less likely to become overweight, which will decrease their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Besides enjoying the many physical benefits of daily exercise, studies have shown that kids who are physically fit sleep better and are better equipped to handle physical and emotional challenges – like running during gym class and studying for a big test.

So, how much exercise does your child need? A good rule of thumb to abide by is children and teens should get at least 60 minutes or more of daily physical activity. But, it doesn’t stop there. According to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, infants don’t have specific requirements but physical activity encourages motor development; toddlers should have 30 minutes of planned physical activity and 60 minutes of unstructured physical activity; preschool age children should have 60 minutes of planned physical activity and 60 minutes of unstructured physical activity and school age children should have one hour or more of activity broken up into bouts of 15 minutes.

Those recommended guidelines may sound like a lot, but don’t worry. Most kids love to be active and, together, you’ll discover easy and fun ways to help your child meet the suggested guidelines. As you begin to look for different activities for your children to participate in, make sure one of these three physical activities is included in their 60 minutes or more of moving:

  • Bone strengthening: include bone strengthening activities, like basketball, jumping rope, or running.
  • Aerobic activity: aerobic activity should make up most of your child’s hour of physical activity each day. This can include brisk walking, running, dancing, in-line skating or biking.
  • Muscle strengthening: Include muscle strengthening activities, like gymnastics, tug-of-war, or swinging on the monkey bars

By taking the time to show your kids the importance of regular physical activity at a young age, you will help set them up for a healthy lifestyle. Keep the following tips in mind to help make it possible for your child to get their much-needed daily activity

  • Limit TV and screen time to two hours a day.
  • Encourage outside play when possible.
  • Organize a variety of structured (i.e., sports) and unstructured activities (i.e., outdoor play) each week.
  • Encourage free play as much as possible in toddlers in which your child develops motor skills and improved coordination. Your child will become more agile for later years when they want to participate in group activities and sports.
  • Plan family time around physical activities whenever possible.
  • Get 20-30 minutes of continuous exercise, at least three times per week so kids get their heart rate above their normal resting heart rate level.
  • Perform simple exercises such as modified sit-ups (knees bent, feet on floor) to build abdominal muscles, increase lung capacity and protect against back injuries.