Importance of Regular Exercise for Children
Part of the responsibility of being a good parent involves teaching our children good life-long habits. The earlier we teach these habits, and the more regular we are at enforcing those habits, the more likely it will be that our children maintain them for their entire lives. We encourage our children to brush their teeth, to read each day, and to make their beds. But do we do enough to promote exercise?
Statistics show that American parents are failing in regards to encouraging children to exercise. Only one in three children are physically active each day. Why should we be concerned? Why is it so important for kids to receive regular exercise?
Exercise helps your child maintain an appropriate weight.
Whether you like it or not, your children are going to spend a significant amount of their day looking at screens. It is the way of the world. To try to balance such a sedentary lifestyle, your child needs to receive an appropriate amount of exercise. Children six and older should receive at least one hour of activity each day. Keep in mind, the activity should be rigorous, but it is not necessary to get in all at once.
Exercise should come in three different forms.
Children should participate in aerobic exercise, weight-bearing exercise, and muscle strengthening activity. Children should be given the opportunity and encouraged to run, jump, climb rocks and trees, and swim. In fact, enrolling your child in swimming lessons not only allows them to exercise their heart and strengthen their muscles, but swimming is also an essential life-saving skill.
Exercise enhances self-esteem.
Kids are proud of themselves when they can develop skills. Watch any grade school playground, and you will see that one determined child playing by herself on the monkey bars. She may try every day for a month to cross the bars without success. As soon as her strength and stamina grow enough for her to meet that goal, you will see one happy girl. Being able to achieve a physical goal helps a child’s self-esteem.
Exercise reduces depression and anxiety in children.
Physical activity increases the levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin helps contribute to feelings of well-being and happiness. While exercise isn’t always a cure-all for children who exhibit those behaviors and attitudes, exercise is indeed worth a try. If participating in team sports adds to the levels of anxiety for your children, encourage your child to participate in an individual sport like running, gymnastics, or swimming. If competition increases the amount of depression your child experiences, seek out non-competitive classes.
Remember, children watch us more than listen to us. If you spend your evenings chilling and watching Netflix while telling your child that he or she needs to exercise more, you are sending a mixed message. Exercise as a family. Walk to school together. Play tennis together. Jump on a trampoline together. Teaching our children the importance of movement and activity is just as important as teaching them to read.