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6 REASONS KIDS SHOULD EXERCISE
By: LaRue Novick
Physical activity is good for your health, but there are specific reasons why starting and staying active with your child should be a priority. According to recent studies, more than one third of U.S. children and adolescents are overweight. How can you help? Be a great role model for your children and double up family time with fitness time. Chances are, children who start exercising at an early age will develop skills that will continue into adulthood. Here are six benefits of early exercise and staying active with your kids.
1. Social Skills
Middle school children who are physically active are more likely to demonstrate good social skills, such as leadership and empathy, which can, in turn, influence healthy behaviors, according to research by the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center. These are very important life skills your child will need to succeed in childhood, college and beyond. Being active gives your child a chance to learn the value of teamwork, communication and accepting responsibility.
2. Strong Mind
Exercise is not only good for your general health, but it boosts your brainpower. Dr. John Ratey, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston states, “Exercise in many ways optimizes your brain to learn.” Exercise also boosts metabolism, decreases stress and improves mood and attention, all of which help the brain perform better, Ratey explains. Get your children active so they can improve their ability to concentrate and perform better in school.
3. Better Health
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, engaging students in healthy eating and regular physical activity can help lower their risk for obesity and related chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer and stroke; the three leading causes of death among adults ages 18 years or older. Start by sitting down at the dinner table and eating as a family. This encourages conversation, slower eating and increased awareness of what your child is eating. After dinner, take a neighborhood walk for 15 minutes to promote physical fitness.
4. Healthy Bones
Exercising at an early age strengthens bones and creates a strong foundation for later in life. Put your bones to work by incorporating body weight-bearing exercises such as walking, hiking or running. A study conducted by the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research measured the bone density of athletes, showing that Bone Mineral Density (BMD) is higher across all sports, particularly weightlifting, gymnastics and soccer. These athletes’ legs, hips, spines and arms demonstrated bone density that was on average 13 percent higher than non-athletes.
5. Combat Obesity
Keep your child moving and away from the television so they don’t tip the scales. Obese children are more likely to become obese adults. Statistics show that children and adolescents who are obese have a 70 to 80 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. Introduce new activities to your child and keep it interesting. Let them try different sports until they find one they enjoy. This will help them achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
6. Boost Self-Esteem
Help your child set and achieve realistic goals. It’s not always about building muscle and burning calories. Let movement contribute to better self-esteem, confidence and overall health. Dr. Lyle Michel of Boston Children’s Hospital says in his book, The Sports Medicine Bible for Young Athletes, “Any kid who believes they are contributing to the team effort will learn self-esteem.” If your child struggles with team sports, choose an activity like swimming or golf where they can compete against themselves. MS&F
HEALTHY HABITS FOR LIFE
The earlier you begin activities with your child, the more likely it will become a positive habit for life. For help, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) in partnership with Hershey’s has developed a series of videos as part of the Moderation Nation initiative to provide inspiration for parents seeking entertaining physical activities to do with their kids. Please visit AceFitness.org/moderationnation/ for more information.