Exercise and fitness
Many feel that detailed exercise and fitness plans are for obese people or those in poor physical health. Exercise is seldom considered important for children and teenagers busy with school and other activities. Research clearly shows that children and teenagers require regular age-appropriate workouts to improve their muscle strength. Strength-training exercises (bicep curls, bench presses, squats, etc) and fitness programs (elastic bands, free weights, exercise machines, etc, under the supervision of professional physical trainer) help children attain increased bone density, decreased body fat and enhanced performance. This form of resistance training reduces the frequency and degree of injuries from sports or falls.
Types of activities
According to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) children and adolescents should acheive one hour of physical activity each day. This can be in the form of:
1. Aerobic activity –Walking, bicycling, swimming, tennis, basketball, gymnastics, hiking, skateboarding, etc
2. Muscle strengthening - Gymnastics, push-up’s, tug-of-war games, swinging on bars or playground equipment, sit-ups, tree climbing, lifting weights, martial arts like karate, etc.
3. Bone strengthening - Jumping rope, running, skipping, basket ball, tennis, gymnastics, etc.
Physical activity may differ between children and adolescents. While muscle-strengthening activities such as lifting weights may be appropriate for adolescents, other common activities such as tree climbing or jungle gym climbing would be more appropriate for younger children to build muscles.
Why it is important?
The incidence of obesity among children has increased dramatically over recent years. Children spend more time in front of TV's, videogames, portable electronic devices, and computers. Most of a kid's recreation is derived from non-physical activities, and this is a major risk factor for obesity. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, 37% of children in the age group 6-11 are obese. Children who are obese often grow up to be overweight adults with risk of life-threatening diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, higher levels of cholesterol and cardiovascular complications. Obese children also suffer from low self-esteem and depression.
Apart from prevention of obesity and other related diseases, fitness can help children increase their academic performance. There are many studies which claim a correlation between fitness (not body mass index) and high test scores. A study (conducted at West Virginia University) proved that regular physical activity in children contributes to positive mood, healthy blood sugar levels, increased ability to concentrate and improved memory that result in high academic performance.
Challenge for parents
Though parents may realize the importance of exercise and fitness for children, it is a challenge for parents to help children get moving on a daily basis. Encouraging the child to engage in physical activity for an hour such as running or bicycling may seem easier during the initial phase but may be difficult to maintain. Parents need to understand that helping children stay physically active and fit is more important than pushing them to formal physical training or a fitness program.
What parents can do
Parents should help children indulge in physical activities that suit their interest. If the child is passionate about sports such as tennis, basketball and swimming, or physical trainings such as martial arts, aerobics and dance, parents should enroll kids in their desired sport or training. This will enable the child to be consistent in his/her desired sport or training.
For children who are reluctant to be involved in any form of sport or physical training, parents can help such kids by making exercise a family activity. Parents can make a routine that the entire family spends together in a physical activity such as family walk, doing aerobics, yoga, riding bicycles, taking the dog out, etc.
Get paid to exerercise! Parents can help children to stay physically active by encouraging them indulge in household chores such as yard work or cleaning the house, taking a walk with parents to the grocery or drug store, etc. A small allowance may encourage participation.
Parents are the best role models for their children. Unless parents maintain a healthy lifestyle (including regular exercise and healthy eating habits) it will be impossible for parents to coax their children to exercise and keep fit.
Parents should help children by reducing time spent on TV, video games and computers by setting rules. Though it is a challenge for parents to make their children follow them accurately, a study has found that setting rules is effective.
Parents need to explore new activities to help their child stay physically active. Some of activities parents can do are swimming with kids, dancing to music or videos, playing with kids, etc.
Parents can choose and plan a physical activity that suits their daily routine and lifestyle.
Parents can also indulge along with their children in community programs or government programs that promote physical activity to stay healthy. These forms of involvement will help children stay motivated, find friends or be involved in groups to stay active and live healthy by making better choices.
A word for parents
If parents desire that their children live a healthy lifestyle by developing healthy eating habits and stay physically active, parents should include physical activity into their daily routine. Parents can draft their daily time slots in a book and make time to include at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day along with their children. They can include different forms of physical activities to make it as fun-filled activities rather than become a boring routine. Keeping a log book will help in monitoring the different physical activities indulged every week and will also encourage in being consistent and make improvisations.
Getting started may be difficult for adults and children alike. It is always better to start slow and move steadily. Parents should be patient when children become inconsistent in following the exercise regime or be reluctant to get involved. Parents can encourage children to suggest different options to stay physically active and teach them the importance of exercise and fitness for their lives and well-being.
Written by: Irene J
Edited by: Michael K Davis, MD
1. American Academy of Pediatrics, 2010, Effects of Resistance Training in Children and Adolescents: A Meta-analysishttp://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/wecan/get-active/activity-plan.htm
Last Updated (Monday, 15 November 2010 13:34)