Most children need at least an hour of physical activity every day to help with the proper development of their growing bodies. The good news is that the required physical activity can be achieved through any number of exciting, interesting and engaging physical activities.
The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta recommends that children engage in three different kinds of physical activity each day: aerobic, muscle strengthening and bone strengthening activities. All three types of exercise are required for proper growth, development, and weight management. The CDC offers specific guidelines governing how much of each kind of exercise a child should engage in each week to help parents determine whether their kids are getting enough physical exercise.
If you have any concerns about the safety of an exercise for your child, or if exercises need to be modified or tempered to accommodate another physical condition, talk to your child’s doctor first. Your child’s doctor may advise you to seek out a consultation with a physical therapist to ensure that your child’s exercise doesn’t dangerously aggravate an underlying medical condition.
Aerobic exercises are those that require the use of a lot of oxygen. Aerobic exercises also elevate the heart rate. Aerobic exercises are important because they provide both the good cardiac workout and physical care we need each day to remain healthy. Examples of aerobic exercise would be walking and running. Both children and adults walk quite a bit each day, but regular walking doesn’t really count as aerobic exercise.
Exercise quality walking involves moving at a specific (rapid) pace and elevating your heart rate while doing it. A rapid walking pace is effectively the pace you’d use to catch a bus or move quickly from classroom to classroom, without actually running. Other activities that include a significant amount of running or moving, like playing soccer or baseball, fall into this category. The CDC recommends that about 60% of a child’s physical activity each week come from aerobic exercises.
The second kind of activity the CDC recommends for children on a weekly basis includes those exercises or activities that strengthen muscles. Exercises like bicycle riding, gymnastics and swimming are examples of those that primarily strengthen the muscles. Children can engage in weightlifting to strengthen muscles, but younger children typically don’t find this kind of exercise appealing. Good muscle strength is needed to complement the development of strong bones. It also helps in weight management.The CDC recommends that 20% of the exercise activities a child engages in each week should be directed toward improving muscle strength.
The third kind of physical activity the CDC recommends for children on a weekly basis is bone-strengthening exercises. These exercises engage the skeletal muscles, generally the largest muscles in the body. Any kind of exercise that uses the large muscles in the legs and arms falls into this category, including some exercises that have already been mentioned. Activities that involve running, swimming, climbing, and bike riding will all provide good bone-strengthening activities for children.
Generally, any exercise that requires exertion will help strengthen a child’s bones. It’s important to remember that a child’s bones are “soft” when compared to an adult’s bones, so strenuous physical exercise that results in injury can sometimes affect the child’s bones and his or her growth. If your child experiences an exercise-related injury like a twisted ankle, groin pull or broken bone, your doctor will advise you on the best recovery techniques as well as any physical therapy that may be required to fully recover.
David Taylor is an online freelancer who tends to focus his writing on topics related to college health education programs like physical therapy assistant programs and schools.