From what age do kids need to work out?
The term "working out" has a very specific meaning to most adults we usually think of working out as exercising in a gym or doing a class with other adults. Kids don't need to "work out", and neither adults, really. What we all do need is adequate physical activity, time outside, in the (hopefully) fresh air, and perhaps some team spirit. Whether you're worried about childhood obesity or are just hoping to give your child time outside, getting active is great! Walking and playing outside are great early exercise activities that most kids can enjoy from the time they first start walking. More structured activities can usually start at around age four. What are the benefits of exercising, getting some physical activity in, or whatever you personally want to call it? A quick list:
- Kids who exercise regularly are less likely to become overweight and obese.
- Kids who exercise regularly are more likely to feel healthy and happy with themselves.
- Regular physical activity keeps children away from less positive activities such as watching TV all the time.
- Kids who are physically active tend to have stronger bones and muscles, and a lower percentage of body fat.
- Children who are physically active have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and according to some research also a lower risk of developing hypertension later in life.
Helping your child stay physically active
Most kids run around lots of the time, without you doing anything to encourage it! Mine drive me crazy with their constant games of tag all around the house. It's a good job we don't have neighbors underneath! This running and walking builds the child's endurance, which is great for their body. What often comes less naturally to kids is building strength as well as flexibility. How can you help your child or children develop in all these three areas? Through different activities, either as a family, as an extracurricular activity, or at school. Endurance activities are easiest to get involved with as a family. Here are some that you probably already do:
- Taking family walks together
- Cycling together
- Playing soccer or a similar team sport in your garden, on the beach, or anywhere else
- With younger kids, chasing each other, playing tag, and similar games
Flexibility training offers many benefits to kids who are going through growth spurts and may have growing pains, like my six-year old is dealing with at the moment. It's also something we could benefit from as adults! Sign up for a whole-family yoga class, or just do yoga and stretching exercises you find on YouTube! My kids love some of the imaginative yoga videos for little ones. Building strength needn't involve weights. Wrestling together, swimming, cycling, and climbing trees all build strength. Enrolling your children in a soccer club, martial art, swimming lessons, ballet or even Scout cubs are all great options that will help them stay active and make them realize being active is both fun and healthy. Also try to do many activities together and be a good role model go to the gym yourself or work out at home, for weight loss after pregnancy, weight maintenance, or just for fun.