Nurturing a healthy attitude towards exercise is essential during the early years of childhood development. Research shows that ensuring your kids enjoy exercise and movement from a young age can set them up with healthy habits to last a lifetime!
How much exercise do kids need?
Whilst some children appear to have endless energy, others may need a little support to stay active. In today’s modern world, smart phones, tablet devices and online games also make it a little too tempting for kids to be sedentary. Health guidelines recommend that kids enjoy the following amounts of exercise every day, dependant on their age:
- Babies – should be encouraged to be active intermittently throughout the day. Before they can crawl, movements may include reaching, pushing and pulling.
- Toddlers – those who can walk unassisted should be physically active for at least 3 hours per day.
- Children aged 5 to 18 – should enjoy at least 1 hour of physical activity (varying from moderate to vigorous.)
Disguise exercise as play
Fortunately, integrating this amount of movement and exercise into your kids’ regular routine may be easier than you think. In fact, one of the best ways to promote exercise from a young age is to disguise it as play! Here are 5 clever ways to make exercise an enjoyable part of your child’s daily routine:
Music and dance
Kids love to dance! While adults may sometimes feel uncoordinated or self-conscious, kids love playing their favourite music and grooving their cares away. Dance is suitable for children of all ages – from infants right through to adolescents. Even babies will love clapping along with the music, and will often end up in fits of giggles!
Dancing offers children a form of creative self-expression and stress release. There’re physical health benefits too – as dancing provides an all-over cardiovascular workout that improves strength and endurance. Keep this activity in mind for those rainy days when your family is stuck indoors!
Kids love playing with water – and the good news is you don’t need a pool at home to encourage this form of outdoor exercise! Backyard sprinklers, community swimming facilities or a simple day at the beach can all provide opportunities for children to explore their surroundings, whilst benefiting from an all-over body workout. In particular, swimming is a great low-impact form of exercise that can enhance children’s lung capacity, fitness and muscle tone.
Disguise exercise as play by having a versatile array of equipment in your backyard! Children will spend endless hours outside, playing with equipment such as:
- Basketball Hoops – Shooting hoops is an excellent way for children to improve hand-eye coordination and strengthen muscles.
- Outdoor Equipment – Playground equipment such as a playset or swings helps to develop gross motor skills, whilst providing an all-over cardiovascular workout.
- Sports Balls and Nets – Regardless of your preferred code, balls and nets for team sports can help teach crucial social skills such as cooperation and communication.
Even if you don’t have your own backyard, many community groups and local parks will offer a variety of equipment that will benefit your kids’ mental and physical health.
Gardening offers a relaxed social outlet, which also provides decent exercise for growing kids. Let your children rake fallen leaves, lift the wheelbarrow, dig backyard holes, and spread fresh soil. Gardening also offers valuable opportunities for sensory development – including smell, taste and touch.
There are plenty of retro-inspired games and activities that will provide your kids with exercise, along with hours of laughter! Kick it old-school with a game of hopscotch, jump rope, tag or even hoola hooping. Games such as ‘duck, duck, goose’ may also be suitable indoors, and will keep little bodies moving, even in wet weather.
Why do kids need exercise?
It’s no secret that exercise is beneficial for all human beings, and it’s particularly important for growing children. Physical activity provides vital health benefits for little bodies and minds, such as:
- Improving cardiovascular health and capacity,
- Developing muscle and bone strength,
- Regulating body fat,
- Boosting energy,
- Controlling mood swings,
- Increasing concentration,
- Enhancing confidence,
- Fostering happiness and positivity.
For more information about the importance of movement, check out: https://health.gov/paguidelines/