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South Health District

Benefits of Exercise for Children & Adolescents

According to a recent study released by the American Medical Association, being physically active is one of the most important actions individuals of all ages can engage in to improve their health. Childhood and adolescence are critical periods for developing movement skills, learning healthy habits, and establishing a firm foundation for lifelong health and well-being.

Parents and caregivers play a critical role in supporting and encouraging children to be physically active and in modeling participating in regular physical activity. Children younger than 6 years of age undergo periods of rapid growth and development. Pre-school aged children (3-5 years) should be physically active throughout the day through a variety of activity types to enhance their growth and development.

Youth, aged 6-17 years, should include vigorous-intensity, bone-strengthening, and muscle-strengthening physical activities which are important components to include on three or four days a week. Unlike adults, youth typically do not develop chronic diseases, but risk factors such as obesity, elevated insulin and blood lipids levels, and elevated blood pressure can develop in childhood and adolescence.

“Children and youth who are active and learn healthy lifestyle habits early in life, normally have a better chance of leading a healthy adulthood also,” says Dr. William Grow, South Health District Health Director. “As adults, we should encourage and provide our children and youth with opportunities to participate in physical activities.”

Other benefits from exercise for children and adolescents are improved bone health, weight status, cognition, cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, and reduced risk of depression.

Individuals having a difficult time finding activities for their children or students, can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Body and Mind website at www.cdc.gov/bam for ideas. Plans for goal setting and tracking activities are available to encourage children to stay with exercising over a time span. Activity cards are also available to teach children more about activities they have selected.

“Be creative when thinking of physical activity for children and youth,” says Grow. “The more a person enjoys an activity they’re participating in, the more they’ll want to continue in that activity.”

For more information The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans study from the American Medical Association, visit www.jama.com.

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