It’s as important for kids to be active as it is for adults. In fact, the American Cancer Society recommends that kids do more. They need at least 1 hour of moderate or vigorous intensity activity each day, with vigorous activity on at least 3 days each week.
- Moderate intensity activities are those that require effort equal to a brisk walk.
- Vigorous intensity activities generally use large muscle groups and result in a faster heart rate, deeper and faster breathing, and sweating.
Activities should be age appropriate, enjoyable, and varied, including sports and fitness activities in school, at home, and in the community. To help reach activity goals, daily physical education programs and activity breaks should be provided for children at school, and “screen time” (TV viewing, playing video games, or social networking on the computer and similar activities) should be limited at home.
Most young people do not meet this minimum recommendation, and are likely to become sedentary adults. This means they’ll have greater risk for diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. What can you do about it?
Look for chances to encourage kids to be active, even if it’s just a quick game of hide and seek, or a pickup basketball game. Kids develop habits early in life, and you can help give them a healthy start.
Tips for parents
- Talk about the value of physical activity with your kids.
- Limit how much time they can watch TV and play video or computer games.
- Create new routines, like taking a walk after dinner or playing in a park on the weekends.
- Plan physical activities for family events, such as birthday parties, picnics, and vacations.
- Encourage your kids to participate in school and community sports programs.
- Advocate for quality physical education and school health programs in your kids’ school.
- Choose a doctor for your teen who will encourage and explain the benefits of physical activity.
- Be a good role model and join in the fun.
As your kids get older, it can become more difficult to find time to be active together. Post a list to remind the family of activities that can be enjoyed together, such as hiking, biking, gardening, skating, swimming, and canoeing.
Tips for the stroller set
- Toddlers are the perfect exercise partners. They know how to be active; just follow their lead.
- Music and dancing are favorite toddler activities. This is the only time in their lives when they’ll be impressed by your fancy footwork, so don’t be shy. Look for children’s music CDs that feature games and dancing.
- Consider starting a babysitting co-op with your neighborhood, church, or family. One or two parents take turns watching the children for about an hour while the others go for a walk or engage in some other activity.
Don’t have a child of your own? Borrow one from friends or family and give parents a needed break. Or volunteer with a youth sports or recreation program.