The Importance of Physical Activity: Enabling Healthy Children

Photo Credits: AnneCN

Photo Credits: AnneCN

Did you know that 85% of children, who fall prey to Type 2 diabetes, are overweight? With videogames replacing
treasure hunts and smartphones replacing outdoor activities, more and more children are spending an increasing portion of their free time indoors – watching television, surfing the Internet and being connected to online social networks. In a book co-authored by Dr. William D. McArdle (Professor Emeritus for the Department of Family, Nutrition and Exercise Science at the Queens College of the City University of New York) and two other experts, they show that less than half of children, teens, and young adults between the ages of 12 to 21 engage in sufficient exercise for their ages and developmental levels – with 14% not indulging in any vigorous physical activity whatsoever!


Why is physical activity so important?


Perhaps one of the most important initial questions that concerned parents and caretakers ask when this particular issue is raised, is what makes physical activity in children so important – after all, we all know that one chubby kid who shed his weight in seventh grade, without trying anything new. But the truth is that not all children will just ‘shed’ their extra pounds; in fact, children who carry their extra pounds into their teens have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. And in the words of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, ‘being obese isn’t a cosmetic problem’: weight problems raise your risk for a host of other problems, including coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and colon, breast, endometrial and gallbladder cancers.


Regular physical activity is not just preventive, either – it helps kids develop bodily and mentally, equipping them with strong muscles and bones, fortifying their immune system and strengthening their emotional capacities and outlook on life. If you are the parent or caretaker of a child, pre-teen or young teen, encouraging your ward to have a physically active lifestyle could be one of the most important ways in which you can enable his or her long-term growth and development.


Enabling kids through exercise:


Photo Credits: Brittany Randolph

Photo Credits: Brittany Randolph

Of course, knowing how to enable your child through regular exercise is easier said than done, especially if your kid is one of those who shy away from the idea of active sports. However, it is not hard once you put your mind to it. Here are five information bites and tips you should know, to help you and your child get started:



  • Choose appropriate activities: Start small and build up. Children have different developmental needs and strengths as they grow up – weight training is not appropriate for the average 8 or 10 year old, but swimming could work wonders. Remember: when in doubt, check with your pediatrician regarding the kind of activities that are (or aren’t!) suited to your child’s developmental needs.


  • Build physical activity into and around your child’s routine: The best workouts are those that are perceived as fun. Help your child build a routine that incorporates moderate to vigorous physical activity, without making the activity seem like a chore. One tip for achieving this is to insert physical activity into the existing routine, without drastically disrupting it – such as tweaking the activities that your kid indulges in at playtime or increasing playtime. Some activities could include encouraging your child to race with friends, explore the neighboring areas, use the swings at the local park, or indulge in any game that incorporates activities like running, twisting and jumping.


  • Help your child find a sport they enjoy: The WHO recommends engaging in activities that strengthen bone and muscle at least three times a week. One of the most fulfilling methods to achieve this goal is to help your kid find a sport he or she enjoys; from basketball and soccer to swimming and skating, the options are so numerous, you are certain to find one that suits your kid.


  • Ensure your child’s safety. Inspect the equipment and explore in advance the areas your child will visit during the physical activities they choose. Do your best to provide your child a safe and supportive environment for regular exercise. However, don’t over think the risks increased exercise could raise: while cuts, scrapes and sprains are common with increased physical activity, they are anything but hard to tackle – ensure you and your child know how to handle common abrasions and sports injuries, and both of you will be better off!
Photo Credits: Frédéric de Villamil

Photo Credits: Frédéric de Villamil


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About the author

Zyana Morris has written 2 articles for Enabled Kids.

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