Kids should get an hour of physical activity every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, kids don't need to run on a treadmill or lift weights. Instead, they can enjoy activities such as shooting hoops, riding their bicycles or taking a walk. Staying active helps kids burn calories so they maintain a healthy weight. Exercise also helps kids develop strong muscles and bones and reduces the risk of conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Exercise and Calories
Calories are units of energy. If children consume more calories through food and drinks than they burn through exercise and normal bodily functions, they might gain too much weight. It can be difficult to determine whether a child is overweight because kids grow at different rates, so consult your child's doctor if you're concerned about his weight. But all children -- including those who don't have weight problems -- need physical activity to stay healthy.
Types of Exercise
Children need to do three types of physical activity, according to the CDC, although some exercises count as more than one type, and they don't have to do each type every day. Aerobic activity, such as running, raises your child's heart rate and strengthens her heart. Kids should do aerobic activity every day. Muscle-strengthening activities, such as gymnastics, help kids develop strong muscles, while activities such as jumping rope help kids develop strong bones. Kids should do muscle- and bone-strengthening activities at least three days a week, according to the CDC. All types of exercise burn calories; exercising for a longer time or at a higher intensity burns more calories.
Fun Exercise Ideas
Kids should choose activities they enjoy for exercise. Many children enjoy sports, such as basketball, soccer, tennis, cheerleading or football. Other children prefer individual activities such as biking, swimming, running, walking, dancing, rock climbing or inline skating. Kids can also get exercise by walking the dog, washing the car, mowing the lawn, raking leaves or pulling weeds. Younger kids may prefer unstructured play in the backyard or at a local playground or park.
Helping Kids Stay Active
Parents can help kids stay active by creating a regular schedule for exercise, recommends KidsHealth.org. Take your children to the park, community basketball courts or swimming pool. You can also encourage your family to be active by going on walks together, taking the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator, parking farther from the store and walking instead of driving when possible. Finally, limit the time your children spend being sedentary, especially the hours they spend in front of a television, video game or computer.
All children need physical activity, but if your child has a disability or chronic condition, talk to a healthcare provider to determine which activities are safe. In addition, always provide protective equipment for kids, such as bicycle helmets or knee pads. If you aren't sure what protective gear your child needs, ask her coach or doctor.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Balancing Calories
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Making Physical Activity a Part of a Child's Life
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Children Need?
- KidsHealth.org: Your Child's Weight
- KidsHealth.org: Kids and Exercise
- David Sacks/Lifesize/Getty Images