Today’s guest blogger Lauren Falini, BS, is an exercise physiologist in the division of weight management at A.I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, De.
Fifty years ago physical activity was just part of daily life. It didn’t need to be planned, or even thought about. That isn’t true in today’s world.
Children wake up and go to school, they sit in a desk anywhere from six to seven hours, maybe one time a week they will have gym class for 30 minutes, and they may have recess if they are in elementary school.
Our children then ride the bus home, walk in the door to check their email, facebook, twitter, watch TV, play video games, or do their homework. Their parents make dinner or order out; they eat dinner and then relax as a family; watch a movie; and then get ready for bed.
Does this schedule look familiar? I bet it does for many families. What’s missing? Physical activity.
There are a ton of reasons why it is important for children to be active; such as, decreasing their risk for heart disease and diabetes. Children need to exercise to maintain a healthy weight, lose weight, or stop weight gain. With 30 percent of children in our country being overweight or obese, this is very important.
Lastly, kids need to be active because it is fun to be active. It is fun to run around with other kids, make friends and laugh while they are playing. Being active does not have to be boring, hard, or a chore.
Children should be active for at least one hour a day after school. The exercise should be moderate to vigorous intensity, which means they should be running, walking fast, dancing, riding their bike, etc. They should be breathing heavier than normal, their face may turn a little red, and they may be a little sweaty. They should also be able to talk. They are exercising too hard if they can not talk, and should slow down or take a break.
Here are some tips and ideas to get kids to exercise:
- Schedule physical activity at the same time everyday. Keeping a routine makes it easier to exercise everyday.
- It’s hard for kids and teens to exercise by themselves, it’s easier to exercise with family, siblings, or friends for support.
- Children can get active by playing a sport such as basketball, soccer, baseball, or football. Families can play a games such as tag or keep away, take a walk, bike ride, or jump rope.
- If it’s too cold to exercise indoors, you can go to the YMCA or a fitness center. At home, Wii and kinect dance games, exercise videos, and home exercise equipment are good options.
- Some children are self conscious or embarrassed to exercise. Start with small goals in a place they are comfortable and someone to support them to build their confidence. Eventually, they will become more independent exercisers.
- For an overweight or obese child, it can be uncomfortable to exercise. I’ve worked with children to improve their fitness level to make physical activity easier and enjoyable.
- A child may prefer more sedentary activities such as reading, drawing, or playing a musical instrument. We support this, but try to help them find physical activities that fit their interests. We emphasize that there needs to be a balance between sedentary and physically active activities.