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.
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