In our increasingly sedentary digital age, it’s hard enough for grownups to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle, much less children. And children need physical activity even more than we do! Increasing blood flow, building muscle, honing those fine motor skills - they’re all essential keys to a healthy, happy childhood. Exercise, even when it’s the worst, is the best.
Children under 5 need to be active all day long (except during naptime,) and adolescent children need at least an hour of exercise daily. That may sound daunting to your already tired parent mind, but exercise for children doesn’t have to be as regimented and refined as your Zumba class or 30 minutes on the treadmill. Kids are nature’s perpetual motion machine after all and, for them, quality exercise can be as easy as pointing them toward the playground and watching them go. For children, fitness can mean simply getting out in the world and running until they can’t run anymore.
But how do you foster good exercise habits in your kids, and what are the health benefits?
Regular exercise for children works wonders for their physical well being. From increased vascular health to less risk of becoming overweight, to a more positive outlook, the benefits are amazing… and really not so different from the benefits for their parents!
Regular exercise in children builds strong muscles and bones, and sets them on a path for continued fitness throughout the rest of their lives. It goes without saying that the global job market won’t be getting more physically demanding, so building a base of great exercise habits early in life becomes all the more important.
Anyone who’s ever done a round of exercise can attest to the power of endorphins, and the feeling of exhausted elation that followed. The workout itself might’ve been rough, and a little irritating, but the results spoke for themselves. This positive post-exercise outlook is magnified in the unfiltered humanity that is a child’s mind.
These endorphins help reduce stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression, boosting overall mental well-being. On top of that, exercise helps memory and produces a positive self-image. In short: active kids = happy kids.
Much has been written about the importance of routines for children. Knowing what’s coming next at school, suppertime and bedtime strengthens their sense of order and control in a fast-expanding universe. Good habits in childhood continue into adulthood, and one of the best of ‘em is exercise!
A sedentary life is easy to fall into, especially if your family lives in a metropolitan area, but it’s something to be discouraged. As easy as it is to plop your child in front of the TV, and sometimes it has to be done, nobody said parenting was always easy. We know you’re tired, but getting the kids out of the house and into some fresh air and exercise is one of the very best things you can do for them.
Getting out and exercising often means being around peers, which boosts social skills and teamwork and a sense of belonging. Team sports are a great way to make this happen, but not the only way. Sometimes, just making an afternoon friend on the playground is enough.
Building social skills, and friendships, is a wonderful byproduct of exercise, and will benefit your child greatly as they grow.
Bedtime can be a struggle during portions of childhood, so why not get ahead of it and make sure your child goes to bed worn out. After an invigorating round of exercise, you’ll at least know your child is physically tired. She may say she’s not sleepy, but the slowly blinking eyes say otherwise.
Healthy sleep routines are essential to growth and development. By encouraging regular exercise, you’ll also find that you’re encouraging proper sleep habits. Fit kids sleep better.
When a child exercises, they’re learning how to express themselves physically. When they’re wearing light, breathable, colorful clothing that allows them to freely move around in the world, kids are ready for anything, and their positivity is contagious.
There’s no better feeling for a parent than watching the absolute joy your child experiences when running, jumping, swimming, climbing, working with a team, building muscle, growing their coordination, and living their very best life.
So get them off the couch and build some healthy exercising habits. They’ll thank you… maybe not today, but they will!
Here’s a fun game to play with your child to encourage imagination and good exercise habits:
You don’t even have to leave your home for this one!
Dancing is one of the best ways to get your heart rate up, promote coordination and rhythm.
- Clear a nice big space in the main room of your house
- Put on some of your (or their) favorite tunes
- Dance like nobody’s watching!
- Encourage your child to show off her sweet dance moves, and try them out for yourself!