often picture children playing games, running around a park or bicycling
to friend's houses. Yet, the reality is that many children don't
get enough physical activity. Why? One understandable reason is
because many parents are afraid to let their kids outside alone.
Another reason is that parents allow their children to watch television
or play computer games for long periods of time.
children aren't given opportunities to be physically active, they
will become lazy and lethargic. Teaching them the importance of
exercise, on the other hand, will give them a valuable tool for
managing their health now and in the future.
Children as young as age two should be encouraged to be physically
active on a regular basis. Exercise helps build and maintain healthy
bones, muscles and joints. It also has many other long-term benefits
that children will appreciate when they get older. These benefits
self-esteem and confidence
likelihood of being more active as adults
sense of self-discipline
an Exercise Program
Because children are anatomically, physiologically and psychologically
immature, special care must be taken in designing an appropriate
exercise program. Safety is a priority. So, before you launch an
exercise program, consider the age, gender and interests of the
(age two to five) love to use their imaginations, so have fun acting
out stories and incorporating movement as the child pretends to
be an animal or visits a make-believe park.
(age six to 12) are just beginning to be influenced by their friends,
so it's a good idea to find exercises they can do with peers. Since
competition is becoming important for this age group, enroll your
adolescent in team sports to develop their appreciation of teamwork
and good sportsmanship.
a parent, you are an important role model for your child. You set
a good example when you engage in regular exercise. By being physically
active together, the entire family will be more inclined to stick
to a program.
Exercise for preschoolers should be referred to as "play."
A healthy level of play requires regular participation in activities
that increase energy expenditure above resting levels. Exercise
for adolescents can include school physical education classes, sports,
household chores and recreational time spent walking and bicycling.
key is to keep things fun and interesting. Considering the short
attention spans of most children, an exercise program that incorporates
plenty of variety has a much better chance of succeeding than one
that lacks creativity and pleasure.
Preschoolers should have little focus on strength training. More
emphasis should be placed on having fun and being active. Encourage
simple movements using the large muscle groups such as walking,
jogging, skipping or bicycling.
to the local playground are time well spent. Climbing builds upper
and lower body strength; playing in a sandbox develops small motor
skills; and swinging develops coordination.
should be encouraged to use the same simple movements as the younger
kids. Other activities that build strength include playing ball,
climbing trees, jumping rope and swimming.
your adolescent is interested in more structured programs, he or
she can do repetitive exercises with rubber tubing or lightweight
free dumbbells (from one to 10 pounds). Each workout session should
be 20 to 30 minutes long, allowing time for a warm-up at the beginning
and for stretches at the end.
child should not work out more than two days per week and workouts
should not be on consecutive days. Be sure the volume and intensity
increase by no more than 10 percent a week. Ask a qualified fitness
instructor for advice about proper exercise choices, as well as
questions about form and technique.
Balance and Mobility
Children of all ages can benefit from exercises that focus on coordination,
balance and mobility. Sports such as kick ball, T-ball, basketball,
street hockey and soccer all develop motor skills. Remember to keep
the activity fun and simple. Don't pressure kids to perform at unrealistic
levels. These activities can take place three times per week and
should take place at least weekly.
to stretch the large muscle groups while the body is warm to increase
flexibility, enhance mobility and help prevent injury.