When most adults think about exercising, they picture lifting weights, working out on a treadmill, or going to the gym. But for children, exercising means being physically active during school and when they are home.
Active girls benefit from regular exercise. They will:
grow stronger bones and muscles
develop a leaner body
be less likely to become overweight
have a decreased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Research shows that the warning signs can be present in overweight children as young as 10 years of age.
have lower cholesterol levels and reduced stress
Increase the chances of living a healthier life as an adult woman
Girls who are physically active are more capable of handling emotional and physical challenges as they relate to development, growth, and health (for example, studying for a test or running to catch a bus). Unfortunately, only 1 out of 3 children actually get in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The 3 Components of Fitness for Children
If you’ve ever observed children at a park or playground, you’ve already seen the three elements of fitness in action when they:
run away from the one child who's "it" in the game of tag (cardio).
successfully cross the monkey bars (strength).
play on the overhead track ride (flexibility).
Aerobic activity strengthens the heart and is fun for kids! Examples of aerobic playtime for girls can include the following:
To improve strength, children do not need a formal weight-training program to become strong. They can incorporate strength activities when climbing a jungle gym or attempting a handstand.
Stretching activities help to improve flexibility, allowing the joints and muscles to move and bend easily through their full range of motion. Without them being aware, children look for opportunities to stretch when they practice a flip, a split, or when they try to grab up a toy that's out of reach.
Combining strength, cardio, and flexibility into a variety of activities, will maximize your child’s results as well as decrease the risk of injury. When done regularly and consistently over time, physical activity improves your little one’s body capacity to deliver nutrients and oxygen to every cell, while removing the carbon dioxide and waste products created by those cells.
How Much Exercise is Needed?
Encourage opportunities for sports, play, and exercise during school, after school, and on weekends. Shape America gives us detailed recommendations for children:
Minimum daily activity requirement: 1.5 hours.
30 minutes of unplanned activity. and 1 hour of unstructured free play.
Minimum daily activity requirement: 2 hours.
60 minutes of unplanned activity and 1 hour of unstructured free play.
Minimum daily activity requirement: 1 hour.
You can break up activity into 15-minute sessions or more.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s revised Food Guide Pyramid allows parents to input their children's age, activity level, and gender, to get the recommended total calories and suggested food servings.
Val lives in New York state. As a health advocate, she shares tips and steps on maximizing nutrition, weight, and fitness goals to help others embrace a healthier lifestyle. She blogs at Halfmile Fitness.