Have you ever finished a walk, run or workout and felt energized? How do you pass this enthusiasm on to your kids and inspire them to be active and build healthy habits for life?
Start early and make it fun. Many people think exercise means a trip to the gym, but any movement is exercise. Get started by making physical activity a part of your family’s daily routine.
How Exercise Benefits Children’s Physical And Mental Health
Movement helps your child’s growth and development in many ways:
Physical Health Benefits Of Exercise For Children
From an early age, exercise offers these physical benefits:
- Boosts energy and endurance
- Builds strong bones and muscles
- Helps maintain a healthy weight and reduces obesity
- Improves balance, coordination, and flexibility and reduces the risk of injuries
Mental Health Benefits Of Exercise For Children
Physical activity also helps your child’s cognitive, social and emotional development by:
- Boosting mood: Any exercise, even for just a few minutes, releases endorphins, the feel-good hormone that improves mood. Regular exercise also helps your child manage stress, reducing their risk for depression and anxiety.
- Increasing focus: Daily physical activity improves children’s ability to concentrate and learn.
- Teaching teamwork: Children learn about communication, fair play and cooperation whether they’re playing on the playground or a sports team.
7 Tips For Inspiring Kids To Get Moving
Children should get 60 minutes of physical activity each day. You can break that time into smaller sessions to fit it into your daily routine. Encourage kids to stay hydrated by offering water before, during and after exercise.
Try these strategies to get your whole family moving:
- Be a role model. Set an example for your children by involving them in your exercise activities. Young children can lift their favorite stuffed toy while you do strength training. Roll out an extra mat so they can lay down and stretch right alongside you. You’ll get time for your workout while encouraging your kids to join in the fun.
- Begin early. It’s never too early to encourage your child to be active. Floor play strengthens infants’ muscles and jump-starts their development. Your baby can explore the world from a stroller as you walk or run. Headed to the pool? Introduce your infant or toddler to the joys of swimming.
- Join a class or team. Explore your area's community and school activities. Let your child participate in a variety of sports and wait until junior or senior year of high school to specialize in a sport. This approach reduces the risk of burnout or overuse injuries, which occur when the same movement is repeated over time.
- Make exercise a family affair. Start the day with a morning walk to enjoy nature and conversation without interruptions. Plan fun activities like visiting a new park, trail or playground each week.
- Move rain, snow or shine. Too cold or wet to head outside? Make an indoor obstacle course. Play follow-the-leader or introduce digital games and videos that get your kids moving. Or throw on some outdoor gear to help you brave the elements. Puddle or snow play can be a childhood favorite.
- Reward effort. Offer young children non-food rewards such as stickers or small prizes. As children grow, praise them for the skills they’re gaining through exercise and sports.
- Start small and set goals together. Begin with short physical play sessions to help your kids build endurance and avoid injury. Set goals for physical activity with your child, such as walking further each day or trying a new outdoor activity each week.
Kick-off healthy habits for life by making exercise a joyful experience. Your early efforts can have a lasting impact on your child’s overall health and well-being.
Stacy Leatherwood Cannon, M.D., is a board-certified pediatrician and the physician champion for childhood wellness. She sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Centers in midtown Detroit and Sterling Heights. Learn more about Dr. Leatherwood Cannon.