Physical activity has many benefits for kids

Helping to maintain a healthy weight is one of the health benefits children and adolescents receive from physical activity.

Childhood obesity continues to be a problem in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the obesity rate among children and adolescents, aged 2-19, has remained fairly stable at about 17 percent, which has affected approximately 12.7 million youth over the last decade. Solutions to this problem are not simple or short term. However, there are several research-based resources and everyday practices that can help families work towards a healthier lifestyle.

Physical activity is one way parents and caregivers can help overweight and obese children achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Regular physical activity can help:

  • Build and maintain strong bones and muscles
  • Decrease the risks associated with obesity, such as chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease
  • Reduce feelings of anxiety and depression
  • Promote positive mental health which may improve a young person’s academic performance

Children and adolescents, aged 6-17, need about 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Family members can play an important role in helping youth incorporate exercise into their daily routine as well as learning about the benefits of staying active throughout their lives. It’s important that parents lead a healthy lifestyle themselves and encourage their children to participate in activities that require the heart to beat faster than it does during low-intensity daily tasks. Brisk walking, hiking, rollerblading and jumping rope are examples of moderate-intensity activities that will get the heart pumping.

Another way parents can encourage physical activity is to limit their child’s non-active time periods, often referred to as “screen time”. Instead of watching TV, using the computer or playing video games, encourage your child to go outside and play basketball with friends or help with yard work or gardening. Getting involved with a sports team or community center is another low-cost way to engage your child in activities that promote both teamwork and exercise. 

Michigan State University Extension recommends that you consult with your child’s physician before putting them on any exercise regimen. For additional information about physical activity for families and youth, check out the following websites from the CDC:

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