Here are some current statistics about physical activity at an early age:
- Children, on average, spend nearly 3 hours a day watching TV.
- Only half of children and teens, regularly exercise.
- More than 15% of all school children are considered obese or overweight.
- Overweight children have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults
- 85% of children diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are either overweight or obese.
How can you encourage them?
Being a role model to your children is one of the best ways to promote an active lifestyle, if you aren’t active then it’s unlikely that your children will be either. If you live close enough then either walking or cycling to school is a great way to start being active as it simply replaces one of your daily routines rather than taking up more of your time. It’s also a low-impact type form of exercise meaning it’s easier on yours and your child’s joints in comparison to high-impact exercise such as running.
Encourage and support your child in extra-curricular activities such as sports clubs, after school and weekend clubs. This ensures commitment to regular exercise and allows children to be active with their friends. Children will always be more active when they have the support of their friends and family. When your kids find an activity that they enjoy they will be more likely to continue and also more likely to want to do the activity of their own accord.
The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends no more one to two hours of screen time per day for young children, therefore it’s important to monitor how long they are on the computer or watching TV. If you think that your kids have had too much screen time it’s a good idea to suggest a physical activity as an alternative.
Some of the best energetic activities that are suitable for young children include:
- Active play (Hide and seek, stuck in the mud etc.)
- Fast walking
- Riding a bike
- Skipping rope
What are the benefits of physical activity?
Children who stay active enjoy long term health benefits, as well as improved mental health. These include a stronger immune system meaning the body is able fight disease more efficiently and your child will be less prone to colds, allergies and diseases. Another benefit is a reduction of type 2 diabetes by increasing insulin sensitivity and improving metabolism.
Through exercise children will strengthen their entire cardiovascular system which includes the heart and lungs, and helps to prevent heart disease. Currently in the UK, 9.5% of reception-aged children (4-5yrs) are obese and another 13.1% are overweight. Regular exercise helps to keep body fat under control whilst developing stronger bone and muscle structure.
NHS Physical Activity Guidelines
The NHS offers guidelines for different age ranges and the physical activity required to stay healthy or improve health. Young people need to do three types of physical activity each week: aerobic, muscle strengthening and bone strengthening.
For children aged between 5 and 18 to maintain a basic level of health, a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity every day is needed. This should range from moderate intensity activities such as cycling and playground activities to vigorous intensity activities such as fast running and sports. Three days a week these activities should involves muscle strengthening activities such as rock climbing and bone strengthening activities such as running.
Moderate Intensity Activity:
- Playground activities
- Riding a bike or scooter
- Walking the dog
Vigorous Intensity Activity:
- Martial Arts
- Cycling fast or on rough terrain