When your child exercises, he builds strong bones, flexible joints, toned, strong muscles and healthy lungs. Exercise also makes your child smarter. Lack of exercise is associated with many diseases. Therefore, exercising from childhood will improve overall health and quality of life of your child.

When should your child begin to exercise?

The human body is designed to move. These movements come to children naturally. However, they still need to practise in order to develop sensorimotor skills.

The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends

  1. Infants get at least 30 minutes of tummy time or interactive play on the floor daily
  2. Children 3-5 years old get at least 3 hours of physical activity each day, or at least 15 minutes for every hour they are awake
  3. Children more than 6 years old get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most days of the week 

What exercises are ideal for children?

For children between the ages of 2-5years, jumping, running, throw and catch activities must be encouraged. 6–9-year-olds can play simple games and sports such as step-ups, jumping games, running, circling around the block and free play. For those aged 10-12 years, strategic play and organized sports like step and aerobic classes, jumping rope, swimming, and climbing stairs are appropriate. Children aged 6-17 years should do harder exercises. Examples are running, cycling, football and dancing, in addition to strength training.

House chores are great ways to get your children to move. Sweeping, dusting, scrubbing, doing dishes, helping out in the kitchen and taking care of the garden are ways your child can exercise.

Make exercise a habit for your child

During exercise, your child should wear loose breathable clothes and supportive shoes. Encourage him to drink a lot of water. Make work outs safe for your child by supervising it whenever you can, and also by childproofing your home. Praise your child when he exercises. Even better, be a good example by exercising yourself. If you work out together, you bond while you teach valuable life skills. Limit screen time, because it can easily replace exercising. Exergames should not replace work outs. Schools should protect the time dedicated to physical education.

Exercising is a healthy habit you should encourage your children to develop as early as possible. Exercise makes your child healthier. And smarter. When chosen well, it can be a fun activity for the family.

Co-authored by Bridget Numarce, MSc. PT. MGPA.

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