It’s no secret that fitness levels among kids are on the decline – most kids would rather spend their day in front of a screen than playing outside. Because of this, only one in four American schoolchildren get an adequate amount of playtime each day and the number of obese children is steadily increasing. Now more than ever, it’s important that your kids learn about the benefits of physical fitness and how they can get active.
Regular physical activity is important to maintain fitness – if you want strong bones, you have to use them. Bone tissue is constantly reforming due to the everyday stress put on it, so regular physical activity will help it become stronger. There are different types of activities to help develop different parts of the body.
Weight-bearing activity will force bones and muscles to work against gravity. These activities also help to develop more cells that are stronger. Examples of weight-bearing exercises include jogging, dancing, hiking and even everyday activities like walking up stairs. Everyone needs weight-bearing exercise in their long-term life, but it’s important to start it during childhood.
A healthy diet is a key component to maintaining physical fitness, and childhood is a critical time for developing dietary habits. Calcium is an important ingredient to building strong bones, and later in life osteoporosis may drain calcium from the bones. Young people can reduce their risk of osteoporosis by building up their “bone banks,” or regularly eating foods that contain calcium, from the time they are young. Calcium comes in dairy foods, including milk, yogurt and cheese, and green, leafy vegetables like spinach and broccoli.
With any type of exercise, getting started is going to be the hardest part. Coincidentally, it’s also the most important. Start with a variety of physical activities, and choose fun activities to do as a family throughout the year. Take plenty of time to get ready—warm ups and cool downs help get your body ready to be active. Work toward your fitness goals gradually – slow and steady is the way to go.
Tips for the Kids
- Plan to be active for 35 minutes each day. This can be broken up into shorter periods. Try 15 minutes of walking and 20 minutes of sports.
- Keep a daily activity log of minutes spent on activity. To build strength in legs, hips and the lower spine, try brisk walking, jogging, or hiking.
- Exercise can be fun. Try sports (like soccer, baseball, and basketball), dancing, step aerobics, stair climbing, tennis and other racquet sports, skiing, skating, karate, or bowling.
Tips for the Parents
- Put the emphasis on the fun of exercise rather than on winning.
- Be a role model. Join your kids for a bike ride, a ball game or a long walk.
- Use physical activity as a reward. Plan a family trip to the park as a reward for getting homework done.
- Make exercise part of everyone’s daily routine. Chores such as raking leaves, painting or walking the dog are great ways to increase physical activity.
- Schedule physical activity. Think about planning activities in 10- to 15-minute blocks of time throughout the day.
- Make it easy to be active. Plan indoor areas for physical activity.
- Make it fun to be active. Select toys and gifts that promote physical activity.