[Editor’s Note. When I was growing up our mother made us stay at home until lunch during the time school was out. As soon as we ate lunch, however, we were expected to go outside (weather permitting) and spend the afternoon engaged in some kind of outdoor play activity. Getting enough exercise was never a problem. Times have certainly changed. This article is one of a series by Dr. Phillips on children and their exercise and play habits].
What are the benefits of movement activity for children? For years we have been told the answer to the question. Children who exercise have:
- A reduced risk for heart disease;
- Lower risk for certain types of cancer;
- A lessened potential for drug and alcohol addiction;
- Reduced probability of depression;
- Handle stress better;
- Live healthy and perhaps longer lives, and
- We also know that for youngsters, physical activity can be a positive alternative to gangs and crime.
However, it is difficult to translate this “head” knowledge into activity for children due to the perceived roadblocks presented by society. Computer games, for example, encourage a sedentary lifestyle. Parents allow computer games and television in answer to other societal problems, such as street violence danger, fear of abduction, no one home to watch (latchkey children) due to the need for all adults to work. Still, though, to counteract the growing epidemic of obesity, activity appears to be one of the primary answers.
The obvious question is how much activity is necessary for a normal, healthy child? Obviously this is very dependent upon the somatotype (body shape) of the child. However, there are some general guidelines from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Three separate suggestions are made for three different purposes. If a child is in need of weight reduction or control, the child is suggested to undergo daily at least 60 minutes of aerobic activity at a moderate intensity. If muscular strengthening is the goal, it is suggested 3 days a week for the child do muscle strengthening exercises (such as sit-ups, pull-ups, and push-ups) during part of the 60 minute aerobics. The third suggestion is for bone strengthening (running or jumping rope) and it is for 3 days a week as part of the 60 minutes of aerobic exercise. Since the 60 minutes of aerobic exercise is every day, one day a week is strictly aerobic, the other 6 days include another planned activity. Planning the child’s workouts together is a tremendous opportunity for parent and child to talk, goal set and exercise with one another.
Dr. Phillips is a 40 year educator. He has authored numerous articles and made a myriad of presentations on movement and movement education. Currently he is employed as the Chair of Sports Studies at the United States Sports Academy.