Obesity is on the rise among America’s children. According to a report by the Center for Disease Control, “Physical inactivity has contributed to an unprecedented epidemic of childhood obesity that is currently plaguing the United States.” Regular exercise can play a major role in helping children manage their weight.
How much exercise should my child get?
All children can benefit from exercise, even if they are overweight or uncoordinated. In fact, physical activity may be helpful in improving the physical and psychological well-being of children with a weight problem. The American Heart Association has made the following recommendations:
- Children age 5 or older should participate in at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity each day.
- Children should perform at least 30 minutes or more of vigorous physical activities at least 3-4 days per week in order to achieve and maintain a good level of cardio respiratory fitness.
- If children can’t engage in a continuous 30 minutes of physical activity each day, try to provide at least two 15-minute sessions or three 10-minute sessions instead.
What can I do to make sure my child gets enough exercise?
It is up to parents, teachers and coaches to encourage children to be physically active. Here are some ways you can help improve your child’s physical fitness:
- Educate your child about the importance of good nutrition and physical fitness.
- Set a good example by being physically active yourself.
- Plan family activities that include physical activity. Walk to the park and have a picnic lunch with your family or go on a bicycle ride together in the evening.
- Limit the amount of time your child spends in front of the television or computer.
- Encourage your child to participate in school and community physical activity and sports programs.
- Become an advocate for quality school and community physical activity programs.
Is it possible for my child to get too much exercise?
Children with distorted body images may rely on exercise as a way to lose weight. This condition is prevalent in females, but can also affect males. Children who exercise excessively may suffer from an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Excessive exercise can damage your child’s tendons, bones, and joints. It can also result in muscle loss, especially if your child is not eating properly. If you recognize any of these warning signs in your child, contact your family physician right away.
Here are some warning signs to look for in your child:
- She won’t skip a workout, even if she’s sick or injured.
- If she does miss a workout, she exercises twice as long the next session.
- She doesn’t appear to enjoy working out, but feels obligated to continue.
- She skips seeing friends and ignores responsibilities to have more exercise time.
- She is constantly preoccupied with her weight and appearance.
- She is never satisfied with her physical achievements.