Now that warmer temperatures are here, it is a great time to get outdoors with kids to enjoy the sunshine and help them get their daily dose of physical activity. With childhood obesity on the rise and kids spending more than seven hours a day in front of screens, it’s more important than ever that children make daily exercise part of their routine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that kids and teens get at least one hour of physical activity per day. Activities like jumping rope, running, climbing on monkey bars and gymnastics are fun ways that kids can fulfill their daily quota, while also strengthening their bones and muscles.
Craig Williams, director of the Children’s Health and Exercise Research Centre at the University of Exeter in England, tells CNN that exercise should include muscle-strengthening activities at least three days a week.
“One of the most important reasons that children should be active is for their bone health, as it is shown that in the adolescent years, 33% to 43% of total bone mass is acquired,” he says.
A few other ways you can make exercise fun for kids are:
- Turn a walk around the neighborhood into a game, or incorporate short races from mailbox to mailbox, for example
- Take them to the playground or a nearby park to run around with their friends
- Sign them up for a team sport, like soccer or baseball
One cautionary note: Girls tend to let exercise slide once they reach adolescence, according to Dr. Stephanie Walsh, medical director of child wellness at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. She tells CNN that the goal is to encourage teen girls to get their daily exercise without introducing body images. Dr. Walsh’s tip for parents? Don’t ever associate it with weight or weight loss.
“Physical activity has so many other benefits that has nothing to do with weight,” Walsh says. “When you’re talking to kids about that activity, talk to them about the benefits, better sleep, better concentration, feeling better, being stronger, increased muscle mass, all those things that are really important about it, but don’t focus on weight.”
Bottom line: Children and adolescents need 60 minutes of physical activity each day, whether they fit it in all at once or do short bursts of activity throughout the day. The goal is for them to get their heartbeat up, and to instill in them healthy habits that they’ll carry into adulthood.