In the United States, kids clock in seven hours of electronic gadget use per day, according to HealthyChildren, the parenting health resource site of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). That means kids are spending a lot of time sitting down and only 1 in 3 children are physically active every day. That's worrisome because physical activity is essential for a growing child. As he develops, exercise will strengthen her heart, bones, and muscles, helping protect her from health conditions like cardiovascular disease.
“Children’s bones are not fully developed until the late teen years. Bone strength is built when bones are forced to bear weight and work against gravity,” said Sarah Sleziak Johnson, an educator on childhood health and development at the Michigan State University. Muscles need to be regularly used and challenged to grow stronger.
All children 2 years old and above should get at least 60 minutes of enjoyable physical activity a day that already includes play, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
Running and jumping can actually energize your child more. “Exercise charges the human battery. And the body is a sort of battery that gets stronger the more it is charged,” said senior health editor James Hamblin, M.D., in an article for The Atlantic. He adds that exercise has also been shown to improve attention and focus in children diagnosed with ADHD.
Spending time at the playground will make your child happier too – and not just because it’s fun. Physical activity promotes emotional well-being and wards off feelings of anxiety and depression, according to the World Health Organization.
It doesn’t have to be difficult. A lot of things your child does every day can already add up together to reach the recommendation. “The 60 minutes does not need to be done all at once. Physical activity can be broken down into shorter blocks of time. For example, 20 minutes walking to and from school, 10 minutes jumping rope, and 30 minutes at the playground,” said the AAP.
Enjoyable and varied activities make getting active fun for kids. Here are three types of physical activity children should be getting, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and fun ways your child can do them:
1. Aerobic activity These are exercises that really get your child’s heart pumping. “When done regularly and for extended periods of time, aerobic activity strengthens the heart and improves the body's ability to deliver oxygen to all its cells,” said KidsHealth
running around (by playing tag, for example)
riding a bike
2. Muscle strengthening These are exercises that help tone and strengthen muscles. This doesn’t mean your child has to lift weights though!
playing on the monkey bars
doing push-ups and stomach crunches
3. Bone strengthening Build your child’s bone mass with bone strengthening exercises. Bonus, a lot of activities of this type strengthens muscles too.
hopping, skipping and jumping
With kids (and grown-ups!) spending more and more time on screens, we need to give the whole family a nudge to run around and play more. Now, get out and get moving!