Why Exercise Routines Important for Children
You should ask yourself, “why is it important for children to be introduced to exercise routines early in life”? The alarming rates of obesity published show the problem continues to grow with increases in rates yearly. Exercise is known to lower health risks and lengthen life expectancy and can be a factor in reducing the likelihood an individual will become obese over a lifetime. We will review the obesity statistics, common health issues related to lack of exercise, the benefits of being conscious of choices early in life and by making and teaching a healthy lifestyle early in life can make lasting impacts by staring young. Finally, we’ll talk about creative exercise options that can begin in infancy through teen years and the enormous impact these things have on a healthy lifestyle and future choices and my beliefs in starting children early on the road to a healthy lifestyle.
The CDC published figures in 2015-2016 show that the obesity percentage in the population hit 39% and effects 93.3 million adults in the US. They describe further that rates among non-white populations between 46-47%. Young adult rates range from 35.7% to 42.8% for middle-aged adults with a slight dip for those 60 and older. They also link higher rates to lower socioeconomic status attributed to various potential leading indicators including education and incomes. Childhood obesity puts children at risk for lifelong health risks, with obesity facts showing children as young as 2-5 having rates of 13.9% increasing to 20.6% by the ages of 12-19 years old. The causal factors can include diet, exercise, genetics, socio-economic and other causes.
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The topic of when you should begin exercising has been and will always remain a well-studied subject. We continue to learn the vast, long-term health benefits associated with the linkage between healthy eating, exercise and the effects of obesity in our lives. In the article “Starting Good Nutrition and Exercise Early” by Build Initiative, they point out the indelible fact that infants and toddlers begin learning about eating and exercise patterns from an early age. This sets the course for how they view these factors for a lifetime as documented in the “Build” initiative that helps support community and families to make intervention in health and wellness easy (Starting Good Nutrition, n.d.). Another great article “Teaching Kids about Exercise” by Catherine Holecko shares among all the health and wellness check-ups, kisses, hugs, healthy food offerings that parents manage for their children, that they are the key to successfully teaching children to be physically active and make it fun! Holecko goes as far to point out the benefits to their overall health, wellness and brains impacting the way they learn. We already know that exercise can increase the chemicals in the brain, muscle and body and Holecko links this to the benefits at an early age. Early childhood habits will tend to be lifelong habits and it, but you do not need to be young to make a healthy change and improve your lifelong wellness (Holecko, May 2018). I believe starting children young and building good healthy eating, endurance, strength and flexibility are the best gifts you could ever give to your children (and yourself!).
How to get started with infants and maintain through youth into adulthood is easier than you may believe. With young children you begin with gross-motor skill development. Gross-motor skill development is the foundation to lifelong support of the physical ordering of development (for standing, sitting, twisting, etc.) (Holecko, May 2018). Kids get exercise in play which includes 60 minutes for Toddlers and 120 minutes for preschoolers. The time should include both planned and free play and they should not have extended periods of inactive time (exceeding 1 hour). Teens should be getting 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous activity daily. How this is accomplished at the various stages can vary. Use of bicycling for endurance, monkey bars for strength and daily bending to tie shoes for flexibility are all simple ways to exercise (Gavin MD. n.d.).
Flexibility has benefits for young and adult. Flexibility has the same benefit for children and older adults and those benefits include improving range of motion, decreasing the incidence of injury, increases blood flow, and the added benefit for the young is they carry flexibility forward as they age. While you can increase flexibility after you age the benefits will not be the same as for someone who remained flexible in their youth and maintained it as they aged. As with any exercise, stretching is key to avoiding injury and to warm muscles. Children would benefit from stretching exercises while older adults will benefit from Yoga (improving the muscle’s flexibility through stretching). Stretching should be part of all exercise programs.
Common conditions that result from obesity include heart disease, certain types of cancer which are a leading cause of death, premature death, diabetes (type 2) and stroke (Adult Obesity Facts, CDC n.d.). In the article “Health Problems and Lack of Exercise” by Mary Gavin MD. additional dangers of being sedentary include coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol and obesity (which in turn can cause diabetes). These are things that a healthy lifestyle (nutrition and exercise) can change (Gavin, MD. n.d.).
The evidence is everywhere that starting your children on a healthy routine will give them the best opportunity to lead a long, healthy lifestyle. As yourself if you know an adult who is very active, maybe they cycle, ski or do both yearly and ask if that person possibly started exercising regularly when they were younger? Possibly they developed a love of cycling as a child and this carried into cycling as an adult, which in turn became an interest in a similar winter sport like skiing? How many children do you see who are very involved in school sports continuing to do something active in their college years? The evidence is there to prove that starting a healthy lifestyle begins in your youth. The challenge will remain for individuals to make a conscious effort to maintain these healthy living habits as they age. It will be very easy to become too busy at work, too busy managing a household and children activities for you to maintain your own healthy lifestyle unless you can interweave your children’s and family activities into the network of your life. I am beginning this journey over myself. I was involved in sports all through school and into college (playing volleyball at Bay Path in my younger years!), then working on a horse farm as one of three jobs I had in my 20’s and 30’s, then marriage, children and a very busy work life began to pull both my energy and focus away from taking care of my wellness. My children and I have begun discussing healthy living weekly and we have started stretching, visits to a gym and eating healthy. Our concluding chapter will be sustaining. I encourage you to help in your community and in your schools to find programs that can be adopted to keep our children moving and active throughout their life.
- Gavin, MD., Mary. (n.d.). Easy Exercises for Teens. Retrieved from https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/easy-exercises.html
- Gavin, MD., Mary. (n.d.). Kids and Exercise. Retrieved from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/exercise.html
- Gavin, MD., Mary. (n.d.). Starting Good Nutrition and Exercise Early. Retrieved from http://www.buildinitiative.org/TheIssues/HealthMentalHealthNutrition/NutritionandExercise.aspx
- Holecko, C. (May 08, 2018). Teaching Kids about Exercise. Retrieved from https://www.verywellfamily.com/exercise-for-kids-teach-the-importance-of-activity-1257096
- Holecko, C. (May 8, 2018). A Timeline for Gross Motor Skills Development. Retrieved from https://www.verywellfamily.com/gross-motor-skills-development-timeline-1257159
- New Kids-Center. (n.d). Fun Exercises for Your 0-2 Years Old Baby. Retrieved from http://www.newkidscenter.com/Baby-Exercises.html
- No Author. (n.d.). Adult Obesity Facts. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html
- Rodriquez, D. (n.d.). Health Problems and Lack of Exercise. Retrieved from https://healthfully.com/412043-health-problems-and-lack-of-exercise.html