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How Does Fitness Affect the Health of Preschool Children?

by Becky Swain , studioD

Playgrounds are a hub of physical activity, a place where preschool children engage in running, jumping and climbing activities with their peers. An awareness of the health benefits associated with physical fitness drives you to provide opportunities for your preschooler's physical activity. The benefits of fitness are not limited to physical development, though. Don't overlook the social, emotional and cognitive benefits that fitness provides for your child.

Physical Health Benefits

Preschoolers who achieve and remain fit garner immediate and enduring benefits. Like their parents, preschool children who are fit are more likely to have bodies that readily accommodate an ever-changing agenda; for the preschooler, this usually involves movement related to fun that tests the child’s limits. Fitness helps in the development of healthy muscles and bones, and aids in acquiring milestones in the motor domain. Some of the lasting benefits of fitness include a diminished risk for developing obesity, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and elevated cholesterol levels.

Social and Emotional Health Benefits

Parents recognize that daily challenges are easier to tackle when they feel good. Similarly, fitness aids your preschool child in dealing with sources of stress and influences an optimistic attitude toward life. Fitness provides positive self-esteem as your child gains greater self-assurance about her running, skipping, jumping and climbing capabilities. The National Association for the Education of Young Children reports that preschool children gain social, conflict resolution and problem-solving skills through playground activities designed to build fitness.

Cognitive Health Benefits

If you have ever noticed how attending to a task seems easier after engaging in a form of physical activity, you won’t be surprised to learn that the brain receives benefits when preschool children are physically fit. The National Association for the Education of Young Children reports that an association exists between an increase in brain connections and physical activity. Additionally, children who struggle to remain on-task benefit from the physical activity provided by recess.

Encouraging Fitness

Parents can help preschool child become and remain fit. Staying active comes naturally for your child during this developmental period, so use strategies to reinforce what is already in place. Observe what your preschooler enjoys doing, and what she is already adept at doing. KidsHealth recommends that parents use these observations to incorporate similar activities into your family’s agenda, and offer many opportunities to engage in preferred activities. Focusing on fun helps to ensure that your preschool child will enjoy the physical activity that influences fitness.

About the Author

Becky Swain's first publication appeared in the "Journal of Personality Assessment" in 1984. Her articles have also appeared on various websites. She is an adjunct college instructor, licensed school psychologist and educational consultant. She holds a Master of Science in clinical psychology and a Doctor of Philosophy in educational psychology, both from Mississippi State University.

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