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Home > Exercise

Young People & Exercise

Did you know that physically active children and teens have fewer chronic health problems than kids who are inactive? Research has shown that kids who play sports or are physically active, are less likely to have health problems later in life. Plus, kids who are fit do better in physical-performance tests, and have more self-confidence. TV and computer games don't build bones or healthy bodies.

Physical fitness is great for young people, and it benefits their bones, too. Since bone is built during youth, with peak bone mass between ages 20 and 30, exercising the muscles that pull on and strengthen bone is critical during this period. To help youngsters reach their full growth potential, they should get 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity, at least 5 days a week.

Young People & ExerciseIt's never too late, or too early, to help your kids build strength and endurance. For preschool kids ages 2-5, fun obstacle courses, creative play with music, and fantasy or make-believe games can help them stay active. Children ages 6-8 can play outdoor games, use more complex obstacle courses, jump rope, and learn basic sports skills, or try a kids' step and slide program. On playground equipment like jungle gyms and monkey bars, kids use their own body weight to build strength. By ages 9-18 kids are often involved in individual and team sports, low-impact aerobic dance, or a progressive strength-training program. Push-ups and pull-ups are an excellent way to build upper-body strength. For optimum bone health choose sports that involve jumping and running, such as basketball, volleyball, soccer, martial arts, gymnastics, and dance.

For teens, exercise is especially beneficial. Only about 38 percent of teens get enough exercise -- the other 62 percent are setting themselves up for a sedentary life and all the problems that come with it. Teen years are an age of enormous spurts in bone growth, and the more a teenager does to build and strengthen bone during these critical years, the better off they will be... for life. Not sure how to get kids to exercise? The number-one thing you can do is be a good role model. Show them that being active is fun, and they'll follow your example. Let them know that being physically fit doesn't mean you have to go to exercise classes or play sports, although these are two great options. Hiking and camping, playing Frisbee, a trip to the zoo, skipping rope, dancing, or shooting hoops are activities the whole family can enjoy.

A few words of caution: children tend to have a 20 to 30 percent greater energy expenditure than adults during aerobic activities. Young people should drink water frequently and exercise less than 30 minutes in temperatures over 80 degrees. Encourage children to drink lots of fluids prior to, during, and after activity. They need to do a warm-up and cooldown just like adults, and wear appropriate clothing and shoes. Keep in mind that kids aren't always naturally limber -- their muscles may be tight and easy to injure during growth spurts. Be sure they include stretching as a part of fitness activities. Have your child get a thorough physical exam before starting an exercise program. Make sure their play or exercise area is safe and well supervised, and they are aware of rules and regulations. Stop exercising if a child gets dizzy, lightheaded, nauseous, or in pain.

Most of all, make physical activity fun! It's a chance for a family to share good times and be together. You can't tell kids that being active is fun. You have to show them. And, since they're having so much fun, kids and teens will hardly realize that what they're doing is good for them.

 

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