Q: I want to encourage my children to be more active now that it’s warm out. What are some ways to do that?
A: Physical activity is very important for a child or teen's mental and physical health, but sadly only about 1 in 4 children get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day.
Levels of physical activity drop precipitously as a child's age and grade in school increase — especially for girls. But when physical activity is a regular part of family life from a young age, kids are more likely to continue to be active even as they get older.
Physical activity includes all kinds of movement, at any intensity, including exercise and physical movement integrated into daily activity, such as walking to a friend's house for a play date. Physical activity helps build healthy bones, muscles and joints. It also can help maintain a healthy body mass index and reduce the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease later in life.
The immediate benefits include helping children fall asleep quickly and sleeping well. Physical activity also boosts a child's mental health. It increases a child's enthusiasm and optimism and can improve self-esteem, school performance, attention and even behavior. It also reduces anxiety, tension and depression. It can also foster teamwork and friendship when it's part of an organized sport.
Parents can play a key role in helping their children become more physically active. Here are 10 tips to get your children moving after more than a year of cancellations and lockdowns during the pandemic.
— Talk with your child's doctor: A pediatrician can help your child learn why physical activity is important and help your child find fun and developmentally appropriate ways to increase activity.
— Emphasize fun: Help your child find a sport or activity that he or she really likes. The more your child enjoys the activity, the more likely it will become a fixture in his or her life. Get the entire family involved. It’s a great way to spend time together.
— Plan ahead: Make sure your child has a convenient time and place to exercise.
— Provide a safe environment: Make sure the equipment and where children practice or play is safe. Make sure their clothing is comfortable and appropriate for the activity.