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Benefits of Exercise and Physical Activity for Kids

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It’s important for kids of all ages to get enough exercise to help prevent childhood obesity. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that school-aged kids and teens get at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day. But how do you make it happen? Here are some ideas to help get your family moving.

Benefits of Exercise and Physical Activity for Kids

Exercise for Toddlers
Toddlers are born explorers and adventurers. They want to test out their newfound walking skills. But two things might make them less active: screen time and strollers. Before age 2, the AAP warns, kids should have no screen time whatsoever. And while strollers may be a fact of life with a large family, or those who need to cover longer distances on foot (city dwellers), you can still make sure your child gets time out of the stroller to walk with you every day.

Exercise for Preschoolers
Keeping preschoolers active and away from screens isn’t hard if there’s a playground nearby. Take them to a safe park or playground and let them run wild. Stock up on toys, like balls, bikes, and jump ropes, that encourage physical play. Young children can also walk longer distances without tiring, so you can let them run errands with you, literally! For example, have your preschooler walk alongside the shopping cart instead of riding inside it.

Exercise for Gradeschoolers
The 60 minutes-a-day recommendation is targeted at kids 6 and up. Of course, it doesn’t need to be 60 minutes in one stretch – break the activity up into smaller blocks such as walking to and from school). Also make time for active family outings, like hikes or bike rides, which sets a good example and gets everyone moving together.

Exercise for Tweens
According to the AAP, only half of children aged 12 to 21 engage in regular exercise. Help kids develop an exercise habit in their preteen years and pave the way to lifelong fitness. Teach them about the three types of physical activity and aim to do each three times a week:

  • Aerobic activity, like brisk walking or swimming
  • Muscle-strengthening, like gymnastics or push-ups
  • Bone-strengthening, like running or jumping rope

Exercise for Teens
Teens have access to many types of physical activity, but often choose to do none at all. Get them exercising regularly by encouraging your teen to try out for a sports team, make martial arts a hobby, or host an afterschool dance party to blow off steam. An activity log (among friends or family) might inspire personal bests and friendly competition.

AGE GROUP

AEROBIC

MUSCLE-STRENGTHENING

BONE-BUILDING

Toddlers & Preschoolers

Playing tag, dancing

Playing on a jungle gym, tug of war

Jumping rope, skipping, hop scotch

Gradeschoolers

Skating, soccer, swimming, walking to school

Climbing trees or climbing walls, gymnastics

Basketball, relay races

Tweens & Teens

Baseball, cheerleading, field hockey, football, ice hockey, martial arts, skiing, tennis, dancing, water polo

Push ups and sit ups, weight lifting, yoga

Parkour, running, volleyball

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