Article By: Dominica Dieffenbach, RDN
Dominica is a Registered Dietitian and mom of 2 kiddos currently specializing in the special needs pediatric population. She has over 15 years of experience as an RD, working with a wide variety of patients to provide them with individualized medical nutrition therapy and education.
Providing kids with regular physical activity is one of the most important things that can be done to keep them healthy. Being physically active can improve brain health and mental health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, improve self-esteem, and strengthen developing bones and muscles. With the increased prevalence of childhood obesity (more than 14.7 million children and adolescents are affected), physical activity can also help with weight management. Simply walking after a meal can improve digestion and blood sugar regulation.
Kids and teens are far more sedentary than they used to be... They spend hours every day in front of screens (TVs, smartphones, computers, tablets, and video games) during and after school.
It is recommended that children ages 3-5 be active throughout the day during normal play with screen time limited to just 1 hour per day. Kids and teens ages 6-17 are recommended to engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity daily, which can be split-up into smaller sessions throughout the day such as walking to and from school. Limiting screen time to just 2 hours per day can help them achieve these goals.
Here is a breakdown of recommended exercise:
1) Aerobic activities.
The majority of daily exercise should center on activities like walking fast, running, and any movement with an elevated heart rate. At least 3 days a week should include vigorous-intensity activities.
2) Muscle-strengthening activities.
Muscle-strengthening can include activities like climbing or monkey bars, at least 3 days per week.
3) Bone-strengthening activities.
Bone-strengthening can include activities such as jump rope or playing hopscotch, at least 3 days per week. Strong bone building only happens during childhood and adolescence, so making sure kids get enough calcium during these early years is critical (in addition to regular physical activity). For kiddos who have a hard time getting adequate calcium through their diet, a high quality supplement like Renzo’s Hercules Calcium would be of benefit.
Currently, about three out of every four children ages 5-10 get less than one hour of physical activity daily, and less than 25% of children ages 6-17 meet their daily activity goal.
The best way to encourage activity in children is to model the right behaviors as adults. Parents and caregivers are influential in creating life-long exercise habits, and it starts from an early age. When families are physically active together, this creates a sense of normalcy for their family’s lifestyle — it's also a great opportunity to bond and catch-up on everyone’s day.
Make it fun! Try to find an activity that is enjoyable for everyone. If you can’t decide, put the ideas in a hat and select one at a time. Many activities can be done right at home without the need for fancy equipment. Jump ropes, frisbees, and balloons can be purchased at local dollar stores and make for great backyard activities — try balloon tennis or setting up an obstacle course!
For older kids and teens, try a family bike ride or a game of kickball, soccer, or flag football (you can use socks for the flags)! If the weather is not suitable for outdoor activities, indoor dance parties are a great way to get everyone moving.
For younger children, hallway bowling with a setup of empty water bottles and a small foam ball can be a lot of fun. Also try creating a scavenger hunt throughout the house!
Kids who learn to create healthy habits with regular physical activity at an early age tend to stay active throughout their lives, lessening their chances of developing chronic diseases in adulthood.
Renzo's Vitamins provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice.