According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity rates have risen dramatically since 1980. In 1980, approximately 7 percent of kids age 6 to 11 and 5 percent of kids from 12 to 19 were obese. By 2010, both percentages had jumped to 18 percent. Along with taking a closer look at children’s daily diets, people must also consider the alarming percentage of kids who do not get enough -- or any -- exercise.
Seriously Scary Statistics
The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition says that only a third of American children participate in physical activities on a daily basis. Unfortunately, participation in team sports doesn't guarantee your child enough daily physical activity, either. According to a study published in the April 2011 issue of "Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine," only around 25 percent of children who play team sports get enough daily exercise. Of the young athletes studied, many spent an average of 30 minutes standing or sitting during sports practice.
Benefits of Exercise for Youths
Kids who do not exercise miss out on the many benefits associated with daily physical activity. Along with reducing the risk of becoming overweight, daily exercise also helps control body fat percentages, blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels. Regular exercise encourages stronger bones and healthier muscles. It also reduces the risk of various diseases, including diabetes and certain types of cancer. Regular physical activity also promotes better sleep, improved self-confidence, higher self-esteem and a better overall outlook on life.
How Much Should Kids Exercise?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 60 minutes of exercise per day for children and adolescents. Of these 60 minutes, aerobic exercise should make up the largest majority. Although some days only require moderate-intensity aerobic activity, kids should aim to get vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise at least three days per week. Moderate-intensity activities might include brisk walking or bicycling. During these activities, it should be slightly difficult to hold a conversation. Vigorous-intensity activities might include running intervals or playing a sport that requires bursts of intense speed. During these activities, it should be extremely difficult to hold a conversation. Children should also participate in muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activities at least three days per week. These activities include jumping rope, doing push-ups, climbing trees or doing gymnastics.
Fitting Exercise Into Busy Schedules
If you cannot set aside 30 to 60 minutes each day for your kids to exercise, divide the exercise into several 15-minute sessions throughout the day. For example, your child probably gets at least 30 minutes of recess at school, during which he can participate in several types of exercise. When he gets home from school, let him play outside for 15 minutes. After dinner, encourage him to head outdoors for another 15-minute exercise session. During colder winter months, take the kids to a local gym for at least 30 minutes of exercise after school.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Childhood Obesity Facts
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Children Need?
- President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition: Facts & Statistics
- Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine: Physical Activity During Youth Sports Practices