Rest and exercise both play crucial roles in the health and well-being of children. Proper amounts of rest are essential for physical and emotional health. Learning and memory are at their best in well-rested children, improving academic achievement. Exercise is equally important, playing a vital role in physical health and well-being by promoting muscle and bone strength, controlling body weight and decreasing the risk of certain diseases and health conditions.
Why Exercise Is Important
Physical fitness is essential to health in people of all ages. Children who are physically active will have stronger muscles and bones and are less likely to become overweight than kids who have a more sedentary lifestyle. Kids who get plenty of exercise reduce the risk of developing a number of diseases that have become more prevalent in children in recent years, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Fitness for Children
School-age children need at least one hour of moderate to vigorous exercise daily, as well as several periods of physical activity of 15 minutes or more throughout the day, according to the National Association for Sports and Physical Education. NASPE also recommends that extended periods of inactivity, defined as two hours or more, be discouraged for children, especially during the daytime hours. The CDC recommends that aerobic exercise make up most of a child's daily 60 minutes of activity. This can be moderate aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, or vigorous aerobic activity, such as running. Vigorous aerobic activity should be included at least three days per week. Muscle strengthening activities, such as push-ups or gymnastics should be included in a child's fitness program at least three days a week, as should bone-strengthening activities, such as jumping rope or running.
Why Rest Matters
Rest is as important to growth, development and health as nutrition and physical activity. Getting enough restful sleep is essential to many bodily functions, such as growth, healing and healthy immune system function. Sleep is crucial to brain function as well, affecting alertness, learning ability, memory, mood and behavior. KidsHealth explains that too little sleep can lead to decreased attentiveness, decreased short-term memory, inconsistent performance, delayed response time, behavior problems and bad temper as well as making problems like ADHD worse.
Children's Sleep Requirements
While all children are different, making it impossible to give a specific number of hours of sleep that is optimal for every child in a particular age group, approximate guidelines based on average sleep time have been established. Infants require between 13 and 16 total hours of sleep, toddlers need about 12 to 13 hours, children between 5 and 11 years of age require 10 to 11 hours, and kids between 12 and 16 years old need 9 to 10 hours of sleep, according to University of Michigan Health System.
- National Association for Sports and Physical Education: Physical Activity for Children: A Statement of Guidelines for Children Ages 5 - 12, 2nd Edition
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity do Children Need?
- University of Michigan Health System: Your Child Development & Behavior Resources: Sleep Problems
- KidsHealth: All About Sleep
- ChildCareAware: Sleep: An Important Part Of Healthy Development