How Much Physical Activity Do Children Need to Stay Healthy?

Physical activity plays an essential role in the growth and development of children. Regular physical activity helps children to maintain a healthy weight, develop strong bones and muscles, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. But how much physical activity do children need to stay healthy?

In this article, we will explore the physical activity guidelines for children, the benefits of physical activity, and how parents can encourage their children to be more active.

Physical Activity Guidelines for Children

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that children aged five to 17 should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily. The daily 60 minutes can be accumulated in bouts of at least 10 minutes duration.

These 60 minutes of physical activity should include activities that strengthen muscles and bones at least three times per week. Children should also limit sedentary behavior, especially screen time, to less than two hours per day.

What is Moderate to Vigorous-Intensity Physical Activity?

Physical activity is usually categorized into three levels of intensity – light, moderate, and vigorous. Moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity (MVPA) includes activities that require moderate effort, such as brisk walking, cycling, or engaging in sports.

It also includes activities that require vigorous effort, such as running, jumping, and playing sports like basketball, soccer or tennis. MVPA increases your heart rate and breathing rate, making it more challenging to hold a conversation while doing the activity, unlike light-intensity activity.

Examples of Activities that Strengthen Muscles and Bones

Activities that strengthen muscles and bones include exercises that make the muscles work harder than usual or put pressure on bones. Examples of these activities are;

  • Running
  • Jumping rope
  • Swimming
  • Playing soccer, basketball or volleyball
  • Lifting weights

These activities help to develop strong muscles and bones, which is essential for the growth and development of children.

The Benefits of Physical Activity for Children

Regular physical activity has several benefits for children’s health and well-being, including:

  • Reducing the risk of obesity and chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.
  • Improving cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, and overall physical fitness.
  • Strengthening bones and muscles, reducing the risk of falls and fractures.
  • Improving sleep quality and reducing the risk of sleep disorders.
  • Improving mental health, reducing the risk of anxiety and depression.
  • Enhancing cognitive function and academic performance.

Physical activity also teaches children teamwork, leadership, cooperation, and respect for others – important qualities to succeed in life.

How to Encourage Children to be More Active

Parents play a crucial role in encouraging children to be active. Here are some tips to help parents get their children moving more:

1. Be a role model

Children learn by example. If parents are physically active, children are more likely to be active too. Encourage your children to join you in physical activities such as cycling, hiking or playing ball games.

2. Make it fun

Physical activity should be fun, not a chore. Encourage your children to choose activities they enjoy, such as dance, swimming, or gymnastics. Make sure to join in and make it a family activity.

3. Get creative

Encourage your children to be creative in their physical activities. They can create obstacle courses, play hopscotch, or jump rope. The possibilities are endless, and creativity sparks excitement.

4. Limit screen time

Limit your children’s screen time to less than two hours a day, and encourage them to engage in physical activities instead. Take time to play outdoors, go for walks, or bike rides together.

5. Encourage active travel

Encourage your children to walk or bike to school, if possible. This is an excellent way to incorporate physical activity into their daily routine and reduce sedentary behavior.

FAQs

1. How much physical activity do children need each day?

Children aged five to 17 should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily, including activities that strengthen muscles and bones at least three days per week.

2. What are the benefits of physical activity for children?

Physical activity has several benefits for children, including reducing the risk of obesity and chronic diseases, improving cardiovascular fitness, strengthening bones and muscles, improving sleep quality, and reducing the risk of anxiety and depression.

3. What are some creative physical activities children can do?

Children can engage in creative physical activities such as creating obstacle courses, playing hopscotch or tag, or jump rope.

4. How can parents encourage their children to be more active?

Parents can encourage their children to be more active by being a role model, making it fun, being creative, limiting screen time, and encouraging active travel.

References

  • World Health Organization. (2019). Guidelines on Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour and Sleep for Children under 5 years of age. Geneva: World Health Organization.
  • World Health Organization. (2020). Physical activity and young people. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/factsheet_young_people/en/
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. (2018). The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children. Pediatrics, 142(3), e20182058.

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