Exercise; Do Our Children Really Need It?

by Sesame Lane Admin on 1/02/2017 11:22:14 AM
Your little one has spent the morning on their tablet, again. And you take a second to think, is this normal? You have a million jobs to do and the only way you’re going to finish is if your child is occupied by something else, anything else.
 
But there’s always a small pang of guilt. Should they be outside?
 
You know letting them have a serious run around is good for them. When they have a full day outside they always sleep better, and behave a little less...crazy. But how important is exercise? And do they really need to that active every day?
 
We’ll answer all these questions, and a little more, in this article. We will guide you through the minefield that is children and exercise by talking on:
 
  • Children and exercise: how much do they need?
  • What are the physical benefits for children so young?
  • Are there any mental and behavioural benefits to having your child exercise?
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Children and Exercise: What do They Need?

 
The current guildeline for children under the age of 5? 90 minutes, per day. Now, don’t panic. That number may feel like a lot, but 60 minutes should be unstructured, simply ‘being a toddler’ time.
 
You know what kids are like at this age. Constantly running instead of walking, jumping at every opportunity and climbing on anything they can get their tiny bodies on. So 60 minutes of free play won’t be difficult to achieve. It’s the other 30 minutes that’ll take a little more thought.
 
30 minutes each day should be adult-led ‘exercise’. This can be as simple as:
 
  • Going for a walk
  • Taking your child to the park
  • Dancing to music
  • Skipping around pretending to be horses/dinosaurs/aliens
  • Go swimming
 
Another recommendation at this age is to make sure your little one doesn’t stay inactive for longer than an hour. So don’t feel guilty about putting them in front of the TV to get the washing done or catch up on emails. But keep an eye on the clock and give them plenty of opportunities to run around and be a bit mental.
 

What are the Physical Benefits?

 
The physical benefits for toddlers are incredibly similar to those for you and me. Making sure your little one is as active as possible will help to:
 
  • Reduce the risk of obesity (in childhood and adult life)
  • Increase their muscle strength
  • Ensure they have strong bones
  • Keep their blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels low
  • Decrease stress and anxiety (yep, some kids worry too)
  • Reduce the risk of developing type II diabetes
 
This list may all look a bit scary, but it doesn’t need to be. Keeping your kid active will make sure they love exercise. Making sure exercise is a habit now will keep it as a healthy, happy habit for a long time to come.
 
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What are the Mental Benefits to Exercise?

 
So not only will exercise help keep your kids lean and strong but it will make sure they stay a little more...level headed. Plenty of studies have been done on the benefits of exercise and mental health in children. And the role of mental health in children is becoming more of a focus in our media driven, digital world.
 
How can you help keep your child happy?
 
It really can be as simple as making sure they are active. Children who are active, regularly are proven to have:
 
  • Better sleep
  • Less stress
  • Lower levels of anxiety
  • Better behaviour
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Better memory
  • More confidence
 
And who doesn’t want all of those for their child? Exercise has such an effect on mental health in children because being active enhances the brain’s metabolism. Meaning they have better brain function which helps to increase their memory. It helps make sure their hormones are in balance, which will be even more important as they grow ever closer to adolescence.
 
Being active will help improve your child’s ability to concentrate and just generally gives them a better outlook on life.
 
It’s hard to think about anxiety, depression and obesity being a concern in children as young as yours, but for some parents it’s a reality. Simply making sure your child has an active lifestyle can help set them up for a life of happiness and success.
 
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How to Be Active Everyday (Without the Stress)

 
Having physical activity as a healthy habit for the whole family should be the goal. Not only will it help your child build the foundations for a healthy life, but it will improve your life too. But how do you encourage your toddler to be naturally active?
 
Here are a few easy ways to get both you and your toddler active:
 

Get Outside (as much as possible)

 
Sometimes it feels like a mammoth task to get your toddler outside. You need a suitcase full of stuff with you, just in case, and as soon as you put on a clean pair of trousers, they’ve had an accident.
 
But just go.
 
As those nature loving Swedes say: “There’s no bad weather, only bad clothing.”  So no matter what the weather, put on your jackets and get outside.
 
Take a ball, a bike, or a scooter and leave the house. You don’t have to go far, and even if you don’t take anything with you I’m sure they’ll find a stick interesting enough to play with.
 
Thinking too much about it can put you off. But once you’re outside you’ll forget all about it. Be in the moment and enjoy nature.
 

Make it a Family Affair

 
Exercise and quality family time are a winning combination. It makes sure you’re all keeping active and will help you bond. You are the example they follow so if you’re having fun they’ll have fun.
 
Making the day into a family adventure is one of the best ways to keep your toddler active. Go hiking, walking or swimming. You could even sign up for a “Parent and Child” exercise class.
 
It doesn’t have to cost a penny but building healthy habits as a family is one of the most effective ways to encourage your child to keep active now and in the future.
 
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Set Yourself Up for Success

 
One of the easiest ways to keep your kids active is by being active yourself. Set an example, abolish the couch-potato lifestyle and get outside as a family. Not only will it improve your child’s physical and mental well being but it will help yours too.
 
Kids under the age of 5 need 90 minutes of activity every day. 60 minutes of this they will run up themselves, literally, but planning in 30 minutes of adult led exercise is easy and doesn’t have to cost you a thing.
 
It's never, ever too late to start. Get active and be a Happy Healthy Learner. You’ll thank yourself later, we promise.