Children who get a total of 60 minutes of exercise each day like running, jumping rope, skating, swimming or bicycling enhance their heart and lung function, have stronger bones, and may be less prone to depression or anxiety. Getting enough rest gives children ample energy for physical activity and makes it easier to function in school. The National Sleep Foundation says most kids need 10 to 11 hours of sleep per night.
Endurance, strength and flexibility make up the three components of physical activity, explains KidsHealth.org, a website published by the Nemours Foundation. A child can meet her daily exercise needs on the playground or during everyday tasks. For example, running a few blocks to catch a school bus or playing tag gets the heart pumping and builds stamina; performing pull-ups or crossing a monkey bar improves strength; leaning over to tie shoes or stretching arms up and down during a yawn can help expand flexibility.
A child's body needs plenty of rest after spending the day moving from one activity to the next, playing sports or running around the playground with friends. Sleep helps both the body and brain recharge itself. A good night’s sleep enhances brain function just like lifting weights builds strong muscles, explains Marc Weissbluth, MD, in his book "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child." A well-rested child is more likely to be mentally alert and pay attention, adds Weissbluth. Weissbluth is a member of the Children's Community Physicians Association and is a professor of clinical pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
Working Together to Promote Good Health
Physically fit children tend to sleep better than sedentary kids. However, exercising too close to bedtime can leave a child revved up, making it harder to fall asleep. Regular physical activity lowers the risk of developing heart disease, osteoporosis and other chronic health problems later in life, points out the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Long-term sleep deprivation can lead to problems such as mood disorders, attention deficit disorder and obesity. An estimated 12.5 million U.S. children are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Following a predictable bedtime routine that might include reading quietly for a few minutes gives a child time to wind down before heading off to bed. Setting a regular bedtime helps ensure that your child gets enough rest. Children who see their parents exercise are more likely to be physically active, explains HealthyChildren.org, the official website of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Make time to shoot hoops, play catch, go for a bike ride or take a walk with your child.
- KidsHealth.org: All About Sleep
- National Sleep Foundation: Children and Sleep
- KidsHealth.org: Kids and Exercise
- HealthyChildren.org: Encouraging Your Child to be Physically Active
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
- KidsHealth.org: What is Sleep and Why All Kids Need It
- WebMD: Good, Sound Sleep For Your Child
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: CDC Grand Rounds: Childhood Obesity in the United States
- WebMD: Sleep Habits: More Important Than You Think
- Children's Hospital of Chicago: Marc Weissbluth, MD
- Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images