Childhood obesity has tripled since the late 1970’s, according to the Federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention with more than 20 percent of American children ages 6-19, suffering from obesity. While there are multiple contributing factors to this epidemic, poor nutrition and lack of exercise play a central role. Promoting exercise in a child’s life is one of the best methods for fighting obesity and aiding them in leading a healthy lifestyle.
The benefits of exercise for children are endless, including but not limited to:
- Reaching and maintaining healthy weight
- Building and maintaining strong and healthy bones, muscles and joints
- Improved self-esteem, self-image, and greater confidence
- Lower risk for mental health challenges, such as depression and anxiety
- Higher performance at school due to improved cognition
- Appropriate development of motor skills
Depending on their age, the activities that qualify as exercise will vary. Good activities for a preschooler will aid in the development of motor skills and might include playing tag, bike riding, or navigating their way through an obstacle course. Teenagers, on the other hand, have a wider range of options for activity but struggle with balancing all of their commitments and responsibilities in one day. You can make it easier for your teen to exercise by providing a ride when required, or proper equipment and/or workout clothes.
If your goal is to encourage your children to exercise more then make sure that you, yourself maintain a physically active and healthy lifestyle. When the parents are overweight or lead sedentary lives, but the child is encouraged to exercise, this will send a mixed signal. At the end of the day, children learn by example.
A good and positive attitude from the parents toward exercise will help to instill a desire for exercise in the children, and if you begin these habits when your children are very young, they will come to think of exercise as fun and a normal part of daily life. Exercising with your children, coupled with proper nutrition at meal times, is a great way to increase the overall health of the family.