The importance of keeping an active lifestyle is one of those things that we know so well, but often have a hard time practicing. We admit that exercising our bodies is just as important to our well-being as eating and sleeping. But many things can keep us from taking part in physical activity; in fact, a recent U.S. News and World Report offered the top 10 reasons that people give for not exercising. Can you guess what they are before you read on? Among the top 10 were:
“I’m too busy.”
“It’s so boring.”
“I’m not a gym rat.”
”My kids get in the way.”
If you have ever felt like physical activity is eluding you for any of the above reasons, today’s Pearl of Wisdom might help you re-focus and re-energize. Let’s consider for a moment that your children must keep active and move their bodies to stay healthy. And consider, too, that we are the best teachers by way of example. That may change things a bit…
… if you are too busy or think think that the kids get in the way, include the kids in a fitness routine! And if exercise seems boring, kids can easily kick up the fun factor. Let your kids be both the motivating factor in your own routine and the beneficiaries of an exercise program that trains them to be physically active. Why is this so important for your child?
Muscular strength, coordination and stamina all improve progressively, as does the ability to perform complex-pattern movements like dancing or shooting a basketball, so it’s best to start early in life. By the time your child is age 6, he or she should be encouraged to engage in physical activity to develop higher order motor skills that will progress as they grow older and continue training. Sedentary habits during their early school years are associated with lifetime risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease.
Several of my own friends have admitted that rote exercise — say, running on a treadmill or endless rounds of situps — is less enjoyable than playing a sport. Kids often feel the same way! Sports such as swimming, basketball, cycling, dancing, or running provide fun and enjoyment but more importantly, also promote health. Some of the benefits of physical activity include increasing cardiovascular endurance. Aerobic activity can make the heart pump more efficiently, lowering blood pressure and increasing the levels of HDL ( good cholesterol ) that eliminates the “bad” fat in the bloodstream. T his may be hard to believe, but studies have shown fatty deposits in the arteries of children as early as age 3.
Other benefits of exercise include increased flexibility, making your child more agile. Stretching exercises are encouraged to improve flexibility and could be incorporated into the warm-up and cool-down part of an exercise regimen. As your child matures, he or she will be able to exercise for longer periods of time. Remember, stronger muscles also provide better support for the joints, hence offering protection from sports injuries.
On the other side of the coin, Livestrong.com lists media distractions and family influence as two of the main reasons why so many children don’t get enough exercise. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that 18% of American children in the pre-pubertal years are obese. Medical complications aside, exercise can help burn calories and fat and reduce appetite. Additionally, a physically active child is less likely to experience stress related symptoms like headaches, stomachaches and more, caused partially by muscle tightness from unmanaged stress. Just as we all do, our children need to learn how to manage stress and diffuse it efficiently — engaging in exercise is an excellent way to do this. To most of us, a minute or two of walking doesn’t sound like a lot but to a child trying to lose weight, every bit of activity helps, whether it’s climbing up a flight of stairs in school or taking a short walk through the park, accompanied by an adult. Once your child gets into better shape, you can encourage her or him to pick up the pace and challenge her to increase the duration and intensity of the activity. The most important thing is to get them moving and have them do it on a regular basis!
Do you have a personal physical activity routine that you’d like to share with other BabyLeggers? Do you incorporate your children into your own exercise regimen, or encourage them to stay active and have fun? Comment below and head over to our Facebook page tomorrow to discuss with other fans!
All information contained in this blog and on our web site(s) should be independently verified by you by a medical professional of your own choosing and you should always conduct your own research and due diligence before making any decision related to the subject matter of this blog or our web site.
Dr. Pearl Cenon
A pediatrician in private practice in New Jersey for over 15 years, Dr. Cenon (we like to call her Dr. Pearl) also has two children of her own. Dr. Pearl’s husband, Kevin McDonough is also a pediatrician and they work together. She writes basic posts about topics that interest many parents, from skin care and nutrition to seasonal issues, such as allergies and colds. Her kind, approachable tone in each blog post will have you looking forward to the next one.