Keeping kids physically active every day can dramatically improve both their overall health and cognitive development. The NHS states that the amount of exercise needed by children is largely dependent on their age. However, as a general rule of thumb, kids aged five to 16 need to be active for at least one hour each day and kids under five need to be active for over three hours a day.
Such activity should comprise of a healthy balance between light and moderate movement. Read on for a more detailed breakdown of a child’s requirements as well as fun ideas to get them moving.
Encouraging babies to be physically active throughout the day is imperative. Before they begin crawling, motivate them to move around, grasp objects and pull and push their body with their hands. Do this during supervised floor play and tummy time. Once they start crawling, keep enforcing this in a safe and supervised play environment.
Young children who can walk unaided should be physically active for over three hours a day—this can be spread throughout the day. A combination of indoor and outdoor play is encouraged, weather permitting. These three hours can include a variety of light and more energetic activities.
Children under five
At this age, children should never be inactive for prolonged periods of time, except for when they’re asleep. Try to limit the amount of time they spend watching TV, travelling by car or being strapped in a buggy. At this age, the best way to get children moving is team sports and group games and activities. Ensure they get the three hours of recommended physical activity by the health service.
Children over five & early teens
As children get older, they will be able to take part in taught lessons and group activities. Sign your child up for swimming, dance or gymnastics sessions to keep them moving. As they grow up, they will undoubtedly spend more hours sitting down in a school classroom.
Counteract this by taking up walking as a hobby or setting some time aside for after school sports. Children over five should get at least an hour of physical activity per day.
Great ways to keep children active
Water games. Nothing will get children excited like the prospect of playing with water. Pick up cheap water guns and shooters—or make use of the garden hose in your backyard—and head outdoors.
Treasure hunt. Instruct your little one to search for fake gold coins, stickers or badges around the house. Spread your chosen ‘treasure’ high and low to encourage problem-solving as well.
Dancing. When the weather makes outdoor activities more challenging, turn on some music and simply dance around in your own home. Buy hoola-hoops or balloons for an added bit of excitement or play ‘Freeze Dance’ for some fun competition.
Cooking. Get your child involved in the household’s daily food preparation routine by setting up your own ‘restaurant’ and asking your little one for help fetching ingredients and utensils.
Purchase ‘activity toys’. Toys such as balls, tunnels, jump ropes, bean bags, miniature basketball hoops and small indoor trampolines may come at an added cost but are sure ways to get your little one moving. Organise obstacle courses in their play room or engage in active games like charades and Twister.
Indoor fun. While cold and rainy weather may impede certain physical activities, there are plenty of things to do indoors to keep moving. Head to the mall for some healthy walking, go bowling, visit an indoor pool or climbing facility, or go ice skating for more practical alternatives.
Why is physical activity so important
It manages weight. Children who are more physically active are less likely to be overweight or obese. Maintaining a healthy weight will reduce the risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions such as diabetes.
It strengthens muscles and bones. The first years of life determine and define the body’s health going forward. Children who are more active develop stronger muscles and bones, making them less susceptible to osteoporosis and other associated conditions.
It promotes mindfulness. Keeping children active from a young age will establish a good exercise routine that will, hopefully, be kept up in adult life. In addition to this, children engaging in physical activity will be more sociable—deeply affecting their mental health for the better in return.