Benefits of Exercise on Youth
While the CDC can give us guidelines on how much exercise your child should receive, we often don’t take into account all the other benefits of regular exercise. Exercise is something that is often put on the backburner and not prioritized. Many people don’t believe exercise is really that important, and roll their eyes at the 60 minutes a day of vigorous activity that is recommended. So let’s break down the benefits of prioritizing movement and how it’s a great habit to start young!
1) Increases overall activity levels
For those parents who struggle to get their child up and moving, there are so many activities to choose from. While signing your child up for a group team or sport is always a good option, if team sports aren’t ideal, options like biking, skating, etc. are fantastic and easy to do at home. Once a child starts to enjoy movement-based activities, they will want to do more!
2) Reduces risk of becoming overweight or obese
Not only does increased activity burn calories and lessen the chance of obesity, but it also leads to better overall habits. Eating a not “healthy” meal prior to exercise can lead to an upset stomach or just overall lethargy. Properly fueling before exercise leads to better performance and better recovery. Good habits breed good habits!
3) Improves cardiorespiratory fitness or heart health
We want children to get their heart rates elevated. This leads to better heart health, while also providing your child with better endurance. While cardiorespiratory activities like running, hiking, fast biking etc. may be a hard sell at first, make it fun! It won’t take long before these originally challenging activities become a breeze.
4) Promotes bone health
While we traditionally think of Calcium and Vitamin D for bone health, exercise leads to an increase as well. This is important as bone mass is developed as an adolescent and having peek bone mass is beneficial as we age and naturally lose this mass. Activities with weight are ideal to promote bone mass, but even general exercise leads to bone adaptation and building more dense bones. This will also decrease the risk of bone breaks and overall injury. Some activities that promote bone health include:
5) Builds strong muscles
Activities that promote muscle gains lead to an overall healthy child. It will reduce their risk of injury and leads to better performance in other activities. Please note that activities should be bodyweight until teenage years. After puberty starts, this is a good time to start incorporating weights. There are so many activities that can assist in muscle growth and includes activities like:
Using resistance bands
Climbing on playground equipment
General playing outside
6) Reduces risk of anxiety and builds confidence
We have all heard of endorphins, but don’t necessarily give them the credit they deserve! Endorphins are produced during exercise and are essentially “happy hormones.” While your child may feel down one day, if you can get them moving and active, those endorphins will kick in, and improve overall mood. It can also help overall sleep habits. When we exercise we are also completing a task and setting a goal for ourselves, which leads to higher confidence levels and higher self-esteem. Also, exercise breaks up the mind’s focus. If your child is feeling stressed, even taking 60 seconds and doing some jumping jacks actually refocuses the brain. The brain must concentrate on breathing and landing without injury and can no longer be overwhelmed with stress (for more on this look into mindfulness). After those 60 seconds the mind can better adapt to accomplishing a task without the stress.
It’s a great way to meet new people and make friends! Especially if your child is shy, sports and group activities are a great ice breaker and they can bond over similar interests. It also gives them something constructive to do and to stay out of trouble, hopefully!
8) Better grades, more concentration, better memory and overall focus in school
Remember how good habits breed good habits? Getting in that exercise leads to improved mental focus and better cognitive function. This means your child will have better hand-eye coordination, improved focus, better attention and overall learning. There is a studied link between exercise and improved grades in school. Exercise helps your child to feel overall more alert and also confident in their abilities to be successful.
9) Lowers risk of disease
In general getting in exercise as a child will lead to better health as an adult. Getting in that cardio improves the function of the heart and lungs. It also reduces the chances of developing weight-related health concerns like heart disease, cancer, dementia and diabetes. Some studies even believe that exercise improves overall immune function and lessens the chance of normal illnesses like the common cold, and infection. Exercise also lowers stress and keeps stress hormones at bay. Those stress hormones can be damaging to your body as well.
10) Reduces risk of future injury
As mentioned above, building strong bones and muscles supports the body overall and leads to a reduced risk of injury. Your child in general will have more awareness of the body and quicker reflexes to help avoid common issues like falling or rolling an ankle. If your child does fall or have some kind of impact, those denser bones and strong muscles are less likely to be injured, or at least reduce the risk of a serious injury, and leads to a faster and easier recovery.
When all is said and done, exercise at a young age will lead to a better quality of life! While it can still feel overwhelming trying to figure out how to make sure those 60 minutes a day are met, there is no shortage of ideas on how to make exercise fun and attainable. The key is trying new things out until the right option is found. Forcing your child to play a sport they hate, will lead to poor adherence and a bad attitude. Though you may need to give your child a little push to try something new and make sure they give it a chance, if they honestly don’t like it, try something new!
Until next time… and remember fitness is for all.