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Exercise for Children

In today's world children get their exercise from walking to the kitchen to grab a snack and head back to the television for a few more hours. A lifestyle like this can be very hazardous to a child's health and well being. So how should younger children exercise? They can't exactly go jogging by themselves or step on a treadmill right? While they can't do either of these types of exercise there are ways to help children exercise from the time they are born until they turn 5 years of age. If you encourage activity and movement while they are young children will establish a healthy habit of regular physical exercise.  It's always important to remember to make exercise fun for children in order to create positive associations between exercise and enjoyment.
 

Ages 0-2

Give young babies opportunity for movement and exploration. Create a safe area for them to crawl around. This is an important time for children to be able to build muscle in their necks and legs. A large blanket spread out on carpet or grass is a great safe area for your child. Encourage crawling, rolling, and sitting to help strengthen their muscles.

Once children start walking a whole new realm of exercise and activity is opened up to them. Try not to confine them to small areas and to not keep them buckled into a stroller everywhere you go. Sometimes strollers are necessary but let your child walk around on nice days when you aren't in a hurry. Provide your child with toys and activities that encourage movement.
 

Ages 2-5

This is the age where making exercise fun becomes crucial for toddlers. If they enjoy spending time outside and finding creative way to play instead of spending most of their time in front of the television they will be more likely to continue this healthy habit later on.

                 -Take your children to a local Recreation center for variety.

                 -Go on bike rides

                 -Play catch with a soft large ball to increase their coordination.

                 -Chase Bubbles

 

Organized sports are hard for children at this age because they cannot grasp the idea of rules quite yet. They have fun making up their own, but in most cases cannot follow them until they are about 8-10 years old. If started to early, organized sports can cause children to feel disappointed in themselves and give them a negative outlook on physical activity.
 

Ages 6-10

At this age it is appropriate to introduce children to organized sports like little league baseball or soccer. Children will be able to develop a sense of team work during these early stages and it will benefit them in their life to come. Make sure to remind your children to stretch before and after exercising to prevent the risk of injury. This will allow their muscles to move in their full range of motion.

This age gap is also a turning point for many children. If children aren't physically active during this time, chances are they won't be in the future. It is important to limit the amount of time spent engaging in sedentary activities like watching television, movies, or playing with video and computer games.  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under the age of 2 years watch no TV at all and that screen time should be limited to no more than 1-2 hours of quality programming a day for kids 2 years and older.

Encourage and praise your children's efforts. This is a vital step towards children seeing physical activity as rewarding and fun. Whenever they catch a ball or go for a long bike ride compliment them and let them know that they have done something good. A good amount of exercise coupled with a healthy choice of foods will benefit your children physically, emotionally, and socially.

 

Resources:

http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/physical_activity_for_all_ages.html/context/227

http://kidshealth.org/parent/nutrition_fit/fitness/exercise.html

http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3007589