The Importance of Physical Activity in Children
By: Victoria B. Bernhardt, APRN
Leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, almost 20 percent of children ages 2-19 were considered obese. This number is expected to be even larger now due to more time being spent in the home as a result of school shutdowns, social distancing, and other side effects of the ongoing pandemic. It is imperative that we place additional emphasis on the importance of physical activity and exercise in children.
The amount of physical activity required varies by age. Infants need at least 30 minutes of supervised tummy time and interactive play throughout the day. While children ages three to five need at least three hours of physical activity, kids and adolescents ages six years and above require at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day. This activity can fall under the category of play, sports, physical education, or planned exercise. A few examples of moderate activity include biking, skating, dance, martial arts, or fast-paced walking. Vigorous physical activity can include running, soccer, basketball, swimming, or jumping rope. Muscle and bone strengthening activities (jungle gyms, pushups, weightlifting, jumping rope, running, skipping, gymnastics) are recommended three days per week.
Physical activity has the following benefits:
- Helps to prevent obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes
- Improves focus
- Improves sleep
- Builds strength
- Reduces stress
- Teaches teamwork
- Improves self-esteem
Most of all, make exercise fun and safe for your children! Help your child choose an activity that he or she enjoys. Get the family involved, as exercise can be a great way to spend time together. Ensure that there is a safe location for all activities, provide plenty of water and sun protection, and don’t forget necessary safety equipment, such as a bicycle helmet.