Kid’s fitness levels are on the decline. Studies have shown that only one in four school going children gets an adequate amount of physical activity each day and the number of overweight children is rising rapidly. Almost 13 percent of 6 to 11-year olds are obese. There is also evidence relating childhood obesity and lack of exercise with osteoporosis (bone thinning), diabetes mellitus (high blood sugar) and high cholesterol levels in adult life.
Good and healthy habits are developed in childhood. Many kids need a lifestyle change from a sedentary to physically active. Sitting in front of computer, TV or video games for hours is not good in the long term. Instead get some exercise each day. Bones grow in size and strength during childhood. The bone mass you gain through physical activity while you are young helps determine your skeletal health throughout life.
Bone is a living tissue. It constantly breaks down and reforms. Some physical activities work bones and muscles against gravity. They are called “weight bearing exercises”. They cause bones to build more cells and become stronger. Everyone needs lifelong weight bearing exercises. Children who get the recommended level of weight bearing exercises can prevent the bone thinning disease called osteoporosis later in life. Females are especially at risk for osteoporosis. Besides regular exercise, young people should deposit into their “Bone Banks” of at least 1,300 mg of calcium each day. Calcium comes in dairy foods. These include milk, yogurt and cheese, and green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli.
Regular physical activity also strengthens the heart and lungs. It lowers blood pressure, improves muscle strength and flexibility, reduces stress and depression, helps control weight and improves sleep.
TIPS FOR KIDS:
Getting started is the toughest and most important step in any exercise program. Slow and steady is the best way to begin… Some tips:
Choose fun, year-round activities.
- Take plenty of time to warm up before and cool down after exercise. Walking, bending and gentle stretching exercises are best for building flexibility and helping avoid injuries.
- Avoid lifting heavy weights. You should try lighter weights to tone up the muscles. Remember proper technique of lifting weights is important to avoid injuries.
- Work towards fitness goals gradually. Do not rush and do too much to get fit fast.
- Involve yourself in about 35 minutes of physical activity each day. It can be broken up into shorter periods, such as 15 minutes of walking and 20 to 30 minutes of sports etc. To build strength, kids can do jogging, hiking, team sports (like soccer, basketball and baseball), dancing, steps aerobics, racquet sports, skiing, skating, cycling, karate and bowling.
- Beware of injuries during sports. Always wear protective gear like helmets, knee and elbow guards.
TIPS FOR PARENTS:
- Reinforce that exercise is fun! Avoid emphasis on winning. Active and enthusiastic participation and team work is more important.
- Act as role models. Join children for a bike ride. A ball game, swimming or a long walk.
- Use physical activity as a reward, such as a family picnic.
- Make exercise part of daily routine. Simple chores such as raking leaves, gardening, painting or walking the dog are effective ways to increase activity.
- Schedule physical activity in 10 to 15-minute blocks of time throughout the day.
- Designate indoor areas for physical activity but encourage weight bearing outdoor activities and plenty of sunshine.
- Select physically active-oriented toys and gifts.
- Allocate time for physical activity as well as an hour or two for play station, computer and TV.
- Make sure kids get enough sleep and rest.
- Healthy balanced diet but Vitamin and calcium supplements can be given if children are bad eaters or food is deficient in any way. Encourage milk products and green vegetables and fruits.