What Exercise Should My Child Be Doing?

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Recent research:

New studies show that regular exercise for children can help them feel less stressed, improve their self-esteem and self-confidence, help them to feel more ready to learn in school, keep a healthy weight, build and keep healthy bones, muscles and joints and help them to sleep better at night.

Parents can act as good role models by being active themselves and encouraging the family to exercise together. Recent research evidence also shows that regular daily exercise can improve children’s health now and in the future, suggesting that physically active children may be at lower risk for fractures when they grow older. Increased physical activity was shown to induce higher bone mass and improve skeletal size in children. (American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, news release, March 23, 2013)

How can we help our children to exercise regularly?

Current research recommends that children and adolescents should do 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of physical activity daily. It is important to encourage young people to participate in physical activities that are appropriate for their age, that are enjoyable, and that offer variety.

Encourage the following mix of activities:

1. Aerobic:

Most of the 60 or more minutes a day should be either moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, and should include vigorous-intensity physical activity at least 3 days a week. Aerobic activity causes a person’s heart to beat faster than usual. In this kind of physical activity  the body’s large muscles move in a rhythmic manner for a sustained period of time. Examples would include activities such as brisk walking, running, cycling, skipping, and swimming.

Aerobic physical activity has three components:

Intensity, or how hard a person works to do the activity. The intensities most often examined are moderate intensity (equivalent in effort to brisk walking) and vigorous intensity (equivalent in effort to running or jogging); Frequency, or how often a person does aerobic activity; and Duration, or how long a person does an activity in any one session.

Although these components make up a physical activity profile, research has shown that the total amount of physical activity (minutes of moderate–intensity physical activity, for example) is more important for achieving health benefits than is any one component (frequency, intensity, or duration).

Moderate-intensity aerobic activity means you’re working hard enough to raise your heart rate and  break into a sweat. One way to tell if you’re working at a moderate rate is if you can still talk but you can’t sing the words to a song. Examples of activities that require moderate effort for most young people include walking to school, playing in the playground, skateboarding, roller-blading, walking the dog, riding a bike on level ground or ground with few hills.

Taking it up a level to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity means you’re breathing hard and fast and your heart rate has gone up quite a bit (work out your safe maximum heart rate for activity by 220 minus your age, e.g. for a 15 year old, maximum heart rate should not exceed 205 i.e. 220-15=205). If you’re working at a vigorous-intensity you won’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for breath.

Suitable examples that require effort for most young people include playing chase, energetic dancing, aerobics, running, gymnastics, playing football, rugby, or martial arts such as karate, or riding a bike fast or on hilly ground.

2. Muscle-strengthening:

As part of their 60 or more minutes of daily physical activity, children and adolescents should include muscle-strengthening physical activity on at least 3 days of the week. For young people, muscle-strengthening activities are those that require them to lift weights or work against a resistance, such as climbing a rope.

Suitable examples for children would include games such as tug of war, swinging on playground equipment bars, rope or tree climbing, sit-ups, and sports such as gymnastics, football, basketball and tennis.

Suitable examples for young people include sit-ups, push-ups, gymnastics, resistance exercises with exercise bands, weight machines, or hand-held weights, rock climbing or sports such as football, basketball or tennis.

3. Bone-Strengthening Activity:

Bone-strengthening: As part of their 60 or more minutes of daily physical activity, children and adolescents should include bone-strengthening physical activity on at least 3 days of the week.

This kind of activity (sometimes called weight-bearing or weight-loading activity) produces a force on the bones that promotes bone growth and strength. This force is commonly produced by impact with the ground.

Suitable examples for children include jumping and climbing activities, combined with the use of playground equipment and toys, games such as hop-scotch, skipping with a rope, walking, running, sports such as gymnastics, football, basketball, tennis or martial arts.

Suitable examples of bone-strengthening activities for young people include dance, aerobics, weight-training, water-based activities, running, sports such as gymnastics, football, netball, hockey, badminton or tennis, skipping with a rope or martial arts.

As these examples illustrate, bone-strengthening activities can also be aerobic and muscle strengthening.

How can we help you at Physiotherapy Bangor?

We provide a wide range of physiotherapy and massage treatments for children ranging from sports injury treatment and prevention advice, sports and relaxation massage, through to injury assessment and reports for sports coaches and clubs.

Further Information

We hope to see you soon at Physiotherapy and Massage | Bangor Clinic. Keep exercising!

Call 027 9127 2267 or click here to request an appointment

Kate Hayes

Author: Kate Hayes

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