Children and adolescents are the future of this country. In whatever future occupation they find themselves, it will always be based on the available division of labor. In America, despite harsh financial times, plenty of opportunity and division of labor exists. In other words, many different vocations and careers are available to whomever wants to work hard enough to achieve their dreams. Hopefully this will never change. What is changing is the dramatic rise of obesity in America, especially in children and adolescents. Because of this a major movement is forming to get children active again. Frankly speaking, entertainment like video games and television have limited the exposure of youth to outside activities. To speak even more frankly, it is not as safe outside in most areas as it used to be years ago. Regular physical activity is essential to promote health and well-being in children and adolescents.
The lack of physical activity combined with a poor nutritional diet not only helps aid the childhood obesity rate, but it sets these children up for risks of adult health problems including: adult obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, atherosclerosis, and premature death.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Exercise for children can be fun, safe and engaging. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services states that youth can achieve substantial health benefits through moderate to vigorous physical activity. The time spent in these activities should add up to around 60 minutes. This is the recommended mark for the best health benefits.
Adults, especially parents, should always keep in mind that children are growing and going through different phases. Girls generally advance before boys, but either way, both genders go through growth phases. It’s during these growth phases that children’s motor skills are at a disadvantage. Children should be encouraged to be kids: run, jump, skip and hop. Play sports for fun. The health benefits will come as a bonus. If parents or coaches try to teach too many motor skills or “perfect swings”, wether it be baseball, softball or golf, the child will have a hard time and could be turned away from the game.
Children and adolescents should be encouraged to exercise in a variety of ways to combat obesity, stay healthy and ensure they will lead happy and healthy lives as they grow into adulthood and work toward their dreams. The following is a list of the top-5 exercises that will keep your kids healthy while having fun:
Active recreation. This falls under the “moderate-intensity activity” category. This type of recreation can include walking, hiking, bike riding, skateboarding, or rollerblading. Games that require catching and throwing, like baseball & softball, would also fall into this exercise category.
Active games. This falls under the “vigorous-intensity activity” category. This exercises should be done less often (3 days per week), because they are more strenuous and require more rest in between sessions. Games like tag, flag football, jumping rope, martial arts, running, soccer, hockey, basketball, swimming and tennis are great examples of active games.
Active video games. Video games were mentioned earlier as being a part of the downfall of childhood health, but a lot of games these days offer ways to move around and be fully engaged in physical activity while playing. Find a game that encourages full-body motion. This could be a great way to mix up physical activity and keep it fun for kids.
Muscle strengthening exercises. Yes, children can build muscle. They don’t have to spend an hour in the weight room, but doing exercises such as tug-of-war, push-ups, pull-ups, rope/tree climbing (supervised), sit-ups and swinging on playground equipment are great ways for children to get stronger without the risk of injury from lifting weights.
Bone strengthening exercises. Children are constantly growing. Because of this, they need strong bones. Milk is not the only answer. Bones are strengthened through impact activities like hopscotch, skipping, jumping rope, running. Sports like gymnastics, basketball, volleyball and tennis are also tremendous ways to build strong bones.
However you encourage your kids to play, always keep encouraging them. Every child is not going to like the same activities. Include a variety of options. Competitive sports are great for physical activity, but remember that kids need to be kids and enjoy their youth. Try not to force any child into something they don’t want to do. Keep trying and they will find something they enjoy. Aim for 60 minutes per day. They will sleep better and live healthier lives.