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Information: it's all about physical activity

Physical activity impacts the physical, intellectual and emotional development of children. Health professionals have long understood the importance of physical fitness for kids. Regular physical activity is a child's foundation for a healthy life. Exercise has been prescribed as a treatment for children suffering from chronic diseases such as cystic fibrosis, diabetes, and asthma. The inactivity of children is a serious problem in the USA. This pattern of inactivity usually continues as a child matures to adulthood. An inactive lifestyle along with consumption of large amounts of processed foods is having a very negative effect on kids.

What is your child's physical activity level?

It is important to know what physical activities are appropriate for kids. Each age group has a specific developmental skill level that will determine what type of physical activity is appropriate. Preschoolers are learning to hop, skip, and jump. Some activities they might enjoy are:

  • Swimming
  • Hiking
  • Dancing
  • Riding a tricycle or bicycle with training wheels

Kids between the ages of 6 and 8 are perfecting basic skills like throwing, kicking, catching and jumping. Some kids may want to start organized sports at this age. Kids between 9 and 12 years old are refining physical movement and coordinating skills. A commitment to a sport may emerge at this time. It is also a time when some kids will drop out as competition becomes more difficult. Why is physical fitness so important for kids? They learn about:

  • Setting goals
  • Meeting challenges
  • Teamwork
  • Valuing practice

Encourage physical activity

Demonstrate that you care and help foster good physical fitness by getting involved in your child's physical activities. Provide kids with lots of opportunities to be active in a safe environment. It's okay if your child is not interested in traditional sports. Help your child explore other options such as:

  • Karate
  • Fencing
  • Golf
  • Bicycling
  • Skateboarding
  • Tennis

Your involvement in a child's physical fitness routine demonstrates caring and your commitment to an active lifestyle. It is important to start slow and build up to a comfortable level, so that children do not get frustrated. The most important thing is to keep the activity fun and age appropriate. Physical activities that can be fun for the entire family are:

  • Walking
  • Playing games
  • Exploring your backyard
  • Using playground equipment at a local park
  • Volunteering for a community project

Fitness benefits

Why is physical fitness so important for kids? It can be a preventative measure for chronic disease. It decreases the risk of:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Sleep apnea

Greater health benefits come from participating in planned and structured physical activity than from simply becoming more physically active. Parents need to set the example so that kids will want to be physically active. Why is physical fitness so important for kids? It can:

  • Build concentration skills
  • Improve attitude
  • Improve readiness to learn
  • Build self-esteem and self-image
  • Build healthy bones, muscles, and joints
  • Help get better sleep at night

Getting parents and other family members involved can make physical activities more fun and help build the bond of family.