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Get Moving: Help Your Kids to Get More Physical Activity

Get Moving: Help Your Kids to Get More Physical Activity

by Mary Beth TeSelle, Sponsored Content


Research shows that physical activity among children and adolescents declined 20% during the pandemic. Experts agree that getting kids active once again is crucial for their physical and mental health.

Being active helps kids be stronger, physically and mentally. Yet researchers are confirming what many parents already know: Children and teens are participating in significantly less physical activity since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The news come from a research review published online July 11 in JAMA Pediatrics which found that total daily physical activity among children and adolescents was down 20% from before the pandemic to January 2022. The drop was even higher for high-intensity activities, which dropped 32%.

These numbers are even more concerning given that before the pandemic started, the Centers for Disease Control reported that less than a quarter of kids were getting the recommended daily amount of physical activity.

Experts say parents need to be aware of how much physical activity their children are getting because it plays a vital role in their health and well-being.

According to the CDC, those health benefits include:

• Academic Performance: Improves attention and memory

• Brain Health: Reduces risk of depression

• Muscular Fitness: Builds strong muscles and endurance

• Heart and Lung Health: Improves blood pressure and aerobic fitness

• Cardiometabolic Health: Helps maintain normal blood sugar levels

• Long-term Health: Reduces risk of several chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and obesity

• Bone Strength: Strengthens bones

• Healthy Weight: Helps regulate body weight and reduce body fat

The amount of physical activity children need depends on their age. Children ages 3 through 5 years need to be active throughout the day. School-age children and adolescents (ages 6 through 17) need to be active for 60 minutes every day, with most of that activity being moderate-to-vigorous intensity.

While that may sound like a lot, it’s important to understand that physical activity can include a variety of things, including casually playing outdoors with friends, playing at the playground, swimming with friends, even walking at the mall or to a friend’s house.

For children six and older, most of the recommended daily 60 minutes should include aerobic activities that increase the heart rate. These include walking, running, biking, dancing, basketball, swimming, soccer or other sports that increase the heart rate.

Children six and older should also engage in muscle-strengthening activities like climbing, push-ups, sit-ups, or swimming, at least three days per week. Older children also benefit from three days per week of bone-strengthening activities – which are those that include impact like jumping or running.

To help figure out what activities are considerate moderate-to-vigorous intensity for your child, think of a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being sitting still and 10 being the most intense level of exertion. Moderate-intensity activity would be a 7 or 8. You can also tell that your child is engaged in an intense activity if they are breathing hard and sweating.

An example of a moderate-intensity activity is walking to school, while a vigorous-intensity activity would be running or chasing friends while playing tag.

If your child has grown accustomed to more screen time and less physical activity over the last two years, it can be difficult knowing how to help them return to a more active lifestyle. The key is to help them find activities that are age-appropriate, fun, and engaging.

Instead of watching television after dinner, encourage your child to find fun activities that get them moving. Make physical activity part of your family’s daily routine by taking family walks or playing active games together.

Even the youngest children love to engage in physical play, particularly with their siblings and parents. Provide toys and equipment that encourages physical activity – like balls, jump ropes, sports equipment, etc.

Remember that physical activity does not always require equipment, coaching or gym memberships – especially for young kids! Taking a hike, playing at a community park, dancing while listening to music, organizing a casual game at a neighborhood baseball field or basketball court – all of these things can be done for free.

Most importantly, make physical activity fun. Kids are more likely to be active when the activity is fun and feels more like play time than chore time.

If you are concerned that a lack of physical activity is affecting your child’s physical or mental health, raise these concerns with their doctor.


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