May 23, 2013
Physical activity plays a crucial role in a child's general development: motor skills, cognitive development, psychological well-being, physical abilities, and emotional maturity. The sooner a child understands the importance of physical activity, the more likely he is to adopt a long-term healthy lifestyle.
Children who are inactive are more likely to develop health problems from an early age: weight gain, respiratory difficulties, hypertension, etc., all of which could have negative effects on the child's physical, psychological, intellectual and social development. In Canada, statistics show that 15% of children aged 2-5 are overweight and that 6.3% are obese. In the last years, several organisms have promoted the importance of establishing healthy lifestyle patterns at a young age, such as Active Healthy Kids Canada: a national not-for-profit organization with the mission to inspire the country to engage all children and youth in physical activity
That's great in theory, but in reality, specifically what kind of daily exercise does a child need? The answer is pretty straightforward: children should enjoy at least one hour of moderate- to high-intensity physical activity every day and, of course, have a healthy diet.
Examples of moderate-intensity activities:
tobogganing, speed walking, skating, biking, skateboarding.
Examples of high-intensity activities:
running, jump rope, playing tag, basketball, soccer, skiing, swimming.
Here are some tips on how to help your children stay active:
- Encourage them to get to school on foot, riding a bike, rollerblading or skateboarding;
- Ask them to walk the dog with you;
- Encourage them to dance to their favorite music;
- Take them to the play park to have fun with their friends;
- Sign them up for soccer, dancing, figure skating, hockey, etc.;
- Cut back on the time spent watching TV and/or using the computer.
It's also important to remember that in general, little boys are naturally more active than girls. Parents should therefore encourage and motivate their daughters a little more to ensure they spend enough energy.
Parents play the most important role in their child's development. A number of studies show that if parents set the right example by taking part in the children's various sports activities and by adopting a healthy lifestyle, their children will follow their lead naturally, which will benefit their health and general development.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, the benefits of physical activity for young children are numerous:
- More opportunities to socialize;
- Better physical shape, generally ;
- Increased capacity to concentrate;
- Superior performance in school;
- Healthier heart and stronger bones and muscles;
- Healthy growth and development;
- More self-esteem/confidence;
- Improved posture and balance;
- Decrease in stress.
Useful links and resources:
Public Health Agency of Canada: Physical Activity Tips for Children 5-11 Years
Centre d'excellence pour le développement de jeunes enfants (Only in French)
Active Healthy Kids Canada
Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines
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