Stamina is a marker of health in all people, no matter what their age. For children, stamina means being able to ride a bike around the neighborhood without becoming overly fatigued, as well as being able to keep up on the playground and on the sports field.
Having stamina isn't just about getting a lot of exercise—maintaining a healthy weight and eating a diet rich in nutritious foods is also important. Give kids the guidance they need in all three areas, and they'll be set up for success.
If your child is over or underweight, it can affect his stamina. Making sure your child reaches and maintains a healthy weight is the first step to helping improve this health marker.
BMI, or body mass index, is a commonly used measure to assess body fat level . It's more accurate than weight alone as a measure of health, because it takes into account height as well as weight. You can use the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's BMI calculator to estimate your child's BMI and then compare it to the BMI-for-age percentile growth charts.
Your pediatrician is the best resource if you think your child might be over or underweight. If you're unsure, make an appointment to speak with her.
Get Kids Engaged in Exercise
With a healthy diet and healthy weight, kids already have natural stamina. To improve their endurance, they need to train their heart and lungs to perform more efficiently.
The CDC recommends children get at least an hour of physical activity each day. This can include running around the playground with friends, or it can include more regimented and sustained activities like running, swimming, biking or playing soccer or basketball.
If your child is currently not getting enough activity, increasing his activity level will increase his stamina. Even if it's just walking, getting kids off the couch and out of the house makes a big difference in their fitness level.
Encourage your child to engage in more activity by walking, jogging or riding bikes together. You can also look for a sports team or other activity that your child can participate in with his peers. Finding something she likes to do will make it more likely that she sticks with it.
Strong muscles are also a crucial component of stamina. If your child lacks strength, he'll tire more easily. The CDC recommends children engage in muscle-strengthening activities at least three days a week as part of the recommended minimum 60 minutes of physical activity per day.
Lots of activities count as muscle-strengthening, from playing tug-o-war and climbing trees, to doing push-ups, sit-ups and pull-ups. Either suggest doing these activities with your children, or get them involved in a group activity with their peers where they'll strengthen their muscles.
Diet plays the biggest role in overall health, weight management and performance measures such as stamina. Getting the right amount of healthy foods ensures a child maintains a healthy weight and has the energy to exert himself for long periods of time.
A healthy diet for children includes plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, which are a rich source of essential vitamins and minerals that support cardiovascular health and, thus, stamina. Aim for your child to get at least five servings every day and include fruits and vegetables in each meal. Fruits and vegetables also make healthy, low-calorie snacks.
Whole grains are important sources of carbohydrates and energy. Unlike refined grains, found in many processed foods, whole grains digest slowly, providing your child with hours of sustained energy. Choose whole-grain foods like brown rice, quinoa, whole-wheat bread and whole-wheat pasta over white rice, white bread, and pasta, and avoid processed snack foods.
Protein is also important for overall health and steady energy. Choose lean sources, including white meat chicken, fish, beans and tofu.
Junk foods, sugary sodas and sweets aren't good sources of energy or nutrients. They can lead to spikes in energy, followed by low energy, a cycle which can lead to weight gain, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
- HealthyChildren.org: Nutrition
- HealthyChildren.org: Encouraging Your Child to Be Physically Active
- CDC: About Child & Teen BMI
- CDC: BMI Percentile Calculator for Child and Teen English Version
- Kids Health: Stock Up on Healthy Foods
- CDC: Youth Physical Activity Guidelines Toolkit
- CDC: Aerobic, Muscle- and Bone-Strengthening: What Counts?