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At What Age Should Children Start to Exercise?

by
author image Kathy Gleason
Kathy Gleason is a freelance writer living in rural northern New Jersey who has been writing professionally since 2010. She is a graduate of The Institute for Therapeutic Massage in Pompton Lakes, N.J. Before leaving her massage therapy career to start a family, Gleason specialized in Swedish style, pregnancy and sports massage.
At What Age Should Children Start to Exercise?
Two young children are playing on sand dunes. Photo Credit Christopher Robbins/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Whether you're racing to the corner or playing dodgeball together, exercise has numerous benefits for kids and adults alike. According to Get Kids in Action, 1 in 3 American children are considered overweight or obese. Being obese increases the risk of children developing asthma, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and a variety of other conditions. Regular exercise can be a powerful weight control tool.

Starting to Exercise

Kids can and should start exercising as early as possible, reports KidsHealth. The type of exercise a child will enjoy may differ depending on age, but it's important to get children active as early as possible, because kids who exercise when they are young are more likely to stick with that good habit as adults. There is no age limit on when kids should start exercising. If your child has any medical conditions or takes medications, make sure to talk to a pediatrician about what types of exercise are appropriate and safe.

Benefits of Exercise for Kids

Regular exercise builds healthy bones and muscles, keeping your kids fit and trim. It also develops their motor skills, balance and eye-hand coordination. Overweight children may suffer from diabetes and other weight-related health issues as they grow older. By keeping your kids active, you are providing them with a lifetime of good health. In addition to the health benefits of exercise for kids, running around and being physically active can help children to sleep better at night, reduces stress levels and helps prevent depression.

How Much Exercise Should Children Get

The amount and type of exercise needed depends on the age and energy level of the child. Get Kids in Action recommends that all kids get a minimum of 60 minutes of exercise every day, if possible. Toddlers may need as much as 90 minutes per day, while preschoolers can get two hours of exercise. For toddlers and very young children, playing tag, hide and seek or just running around at the playground for the morning may provide all of the exercise they need. For older children, consider enrolling them in a sport or class they are interested in, such as karate, hockey or soccer.

Set the Example

The best way to get your kids active is to be active yourself. Run around and play with them. Show your kids that exercise is fun by taking a bike ride together, playing kickball or hopscotch, or participating in pick-up basketball or soccer games at the park. When the weather is too cold or rainy, use your video game system to play active dance or sporting games such as bowling or tennis. Encourage healthy competitions with your family and friends. Discourage sedentary activities, including watching television, as much as possible.

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