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Preventing Obesity With Exercise for Kids

written by: AngelaC • edited by: KJ Fitness,Ink • updated: 2/27/2009

Exercise for kids is different from exercise for adults. Help your kids get 60 minutes of physical activity per day by shutting off the TV and encouraging healthy habits.

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    Obesity and Sedentary Kids

    Exercise for kids is important. By the time they reach elementary school age, kids need one hour of physical activity per day, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

    Exercise is important for a child’s physical and mental development. Getting regular exercise helps kids develop muscular strength and endurance in addition to giving them outlet to relive the stress that comes with growing up. Even more importantly, developing healthy habits as a youngster sets a precedent for a person’s entire life.

    Starting kids out with healthy habits at a young age is a matter of growing importance as childhood obesity and related illnesses have quadrupled in the past 30 years. Overweight children are at risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, and high cholesterol. It seems that the first step in preventing a child from becoming at-risk for weight-related health issues is getting them to turn off the TV.

    While diet plays a major part in maintaining a healthy weight, the AAP blames sedentary activities like TV-watching and video game playing as major causes for the rise in childhood obesity.

    A two year study conducted by the Iowa State University and the National Institute on Media and Family found that too much TV time combined with a lack of exercise greatly increased a child’s chances of being overweight.

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    Types of Exercise for Kids

    Help your children prevent obesity in childhood and adulthood by exploring exercise activities that they enjoy. When adults think about getting exercise, most think immediately of getting on a treadmill, lifting weights, or taking a yoga class. But it’s important to note that exercise for kids has a different meaning than exercise for adults. Free play, unstructured playtime on the playground or in the backyard, can be just as beneficial to a child as 45 minutes on the treadmill would be for an adult.

    When it comes to exercise for kids, parents often have trouble motivating their children to get off the couch. But by encouraging kids to develop healthy habits and setting a good example themselves, parents foster healthy lifetime fitness habits in their kids.

    Here are suggestions for exercise for kids:

    • Kids Gyms. In large cities, kids gyms are part of a growing trend towards getting the whole family involved in regular physical fitness. Look for kid’s gyms that supervise children closely, provide age-appropriate activities, and maintain safe exercise equipment.
    • Group Sports. Group sports provide a structured environment in which kids can learn to develop athletic ability, sportsmanship, and teamwork. Look for local sports programs that emphasize teamwork over competition.
    • Family Outdoor Time. Walking around the block or riding bikes with mom and dad at the park can be great exercise for kids. Encouraged by mom and dad’s participation, kids enjoy these family activities and spend quality face time with their parents.
    • Outdoor playgroups. If your child is too young for organized sports, try organizing an outdoor playgroup with other parents in your neighborhood. Bring healthy snacks and provide a safe environment where kids can play and socialize in a supervised area.
    • Any other structured activity. Any activity that gets kids active can be a positive force in their lives. Activities like dancing, martial arts, and rock climbing are all great options. The study and practice of these activities allow kids to feel like an expert in that area. Allowing them to feel a mastery of and ownership in their activity builds self-esteem in addition to keeping them active.

    Whatever activity you choose to have your child participate in, be sure that he or she has a say in making the decision to become active. Children are more likely to enjoy and therefore continue with an activity if they contributed to the decision making process.