NORFOLK-The American Heart Association recommends that children and adolescents participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. Increased physical activity has been associated with an increased life expectancy and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, says CHKD Healthy You for Life is Physical Therapist Kira Davies.
Tip 1: Why is exercise or physical activity important for children?
• Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for developing coronary artery disease. It also increases the risk of stroke and other major cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, low HDL ("good") cholesterol and diabetes. Regular exercising makes your heart, like any other muscle, stronger. A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort.
• Physical activity produces overall physical, psychological and social benefits. Inactive children are likely to become inactive adults. It also helps with:
o improved psychological well-being, including gaining more self-confidence and higher self-esteem
o controlling weight
o improve energy levels
o improve quality of sleep at night
o reducing blood pressure
o raising HDL ("good") cholesterol
o reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and some kinds of cancer
Tip 2: What about children who are uncoordinated or overweight?
• All children, even less-coordinated ones, need to be physically active. Activity may be particularly helpful for the physical and psychological well-being of children with a weight problem.
• The American Heart Association recommends: All children age 2 and older should participate in at least 60 minutes of enjoyable, moderate-intensity physical activities every day that are developmentally appropriate and varied. 30 minutes of this should be aerobic: activities that make you get “hot, sweaty, and out of breath.”
Tip 3: What can parents do to promote physical activity in their children?
• If your child or children don't have a full 60-minute activity break each day, try to provide at least two 30-minute periods or four 15-minute periods in which they can engage in vigorous activities appropriate to their age, gender and stage of physical and emotional development.
• Physical activity should be increased by reducing sedentary time (e.g., watching television, playing computer video games or talking on the phone). < 2 hours/day screen time.
• Parents should try to be role models for active lifestyles and provide children with opportunities for increased physical activity.
• Physical activity should be fun for children and adolescents.
For more information, check out the Healthy You for Life section on the CHKD Website.