Research shows that regular kids exercise for kids can boost our self-esteem, mood and sleep quality, making us less prone to stress, depression and dementia. Due to our modern lifestyles and an increased reliance on technology, we are less active nowadays, both as adults and as children.
Research also shows that inactive children are likely to become inactive adults, with a risk of developing life-threatening conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Exercise is one of the most important aspects of a child’s life. Most people think that exercise means going to the gym but for children, this means just being physically active whilst playing in the playground, playing football at lunch, walking to school or learning to dance online at home itself.
To get the contextual understanding, it is good to read my previous blog on the introduction to the kids fitness.
Kids exercise helps in children’s physical development
Exercise and physical activities should be integrated into young children’s lives to create a foundation of movement and activity that will be carried with them throughout the rest of their lives.
Kids Exercise makes your heart happy and strong!
We’ve long known that exercise makes your heart and lungs stronger, and that definitely goes for children. Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death worldwide, and it’s mostly preventable by changing your lifestyle and managing risk factors. Your heart is a muscle and, as with any muscle, exercise is what strengthens it. Several studies have also shown that people who exercise regularly are less likely to suffer a sudden heart attack or other life-threatening cardiac events.
A regular exercise routine can help to improve your cardiovascular health:
– Works like a beta-blocker to slow the heart rate and lower your blood pressure
– Improves the muscles’ ability to pull oxygen out of the blood, reducing the need for the heart to pump more blood to the muscles
– Reduces stress hormones that can put an extra burden on the heart
– Increases high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol and helps control triglycerides
Starting at a young age, simple aerobic exercises like jogging, swimming and cycling, can help reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease later on in life. While exercise has benefits in and of itself, the best way to prevent heart disease is to combine exercise with a healthy diet.
Kids Exercise helps develop beneficial body composition!
Exercise and a healthy diet, are crucial components for improving body weight and body composition. Physical activity and exercise not only burn the calories you intake but they make way for optimal muscle growth by decreasing fat mass or increasing muscle mass.
Exercise helps build more of the kind of lean muscle mass that supports joints and improves kids’ metabolism. While body fat, in general, isn’t necessarily harmful to young children, abdominal fat specifically has been linked with Type 2 diabetes.
Kids Exercise helps prevent and manage Type 2 Diabetes!
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that affects millions of people worldwide. Uncontrolled cases can cause blindness, kidney failure, heart disease and other serious conditions. Excessive weight gain, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle are all things that put a person at risk for type 2 diabetes.
In the past, type 2 diabetes usually happened only in adults. But now, more kids and teens are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, due to the rapidly increasing number of overweight kids. Encouraging your kids to eat low-fat, nutrient-rich foods (like whole-grain cereals and bread, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and lean proteins) and limiting sugary foods and beverages (like chocolates, juices, carbonated drinks etc.,) — can help prevent excessive weight gain and abdominal fat.
Exercise reduces abdominal fat, also called visceral fat, which is a major player in the development of insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. These fat cells not only store energy but they produce and release a host of chemicals and hormones that make it harder for the body to use insulin, worsening insulin resistance. Exercise both burns calories and helps the body maintain lean, metabolism-supporting muscle.
The long-term benefits of exercise and a healthy diet on blood sugar and insulin health are unquestionable. Exercise triggers the uptake of glucose from the bloodstream into the working muscles and organs. This is one reason experts agree that people with elevated blood sugar levels can benefit from walks after meals.
Exercising regularly can increase insulin secretion and sensitivity, which may help prevent the progression from prediabetes to diabetes. Exercise boosts your body’s sensitivity to insulin, countering insulin resistance. So when you exercise, less insulin is required to keep your blood sugar levels under control.
Kids Exercise improves balance and coordination, strength and endurance!
Developing balance and coordination begins almost at birth. As babies develop, they learn to lift their heads, roll over and scoot across the floor. Eventually, when babies turn into toddlers, their balance and coordination develop more quickly as they begin to crawl, walk, skip, jump and run. During these developmental stages, children typically become involved in more complex and difficult activities on the playground and at home that help them in their growth and development. Balance and coordination skills are essential for child development and necessary for everyday life.
Balance is the ability of a child to maintain a controlled body position or posture during a specific task. Coordination in child development refers to whether a child can get their body parts to work in a coordinated and functional manner. More broadly, coordination refers to the ability of a child to correctly interpret multiple signals to do more complex physical tasks. Walking, climbing or even sitting all require balance and coordination. With good balance and coordination, the child is likely to have appropriate postural responses when needed which means there is less likelihood of injuries, especially during sports participation.
Similarly, muscular strength and endurance are two important parts of your body’s ability to move, lift things and do day-to-day activities. Muscular strength is the amount of force you can put out or the amount of weight you can lift. Muscular endurance is how many times you can move that weight without getting exhausted.
Strength and endurance are important to enable children to perform everyday functions such as fine motor skills (e.g. holding a pencil appropriately, cleaning teeth), gross motor skills (e.g. carrying heavy school bags, walking, running, skipping, playground skills such as climbing, and sporting skills such as catching, throwing and hitting a ball with a bat).
Improving strength and endurance contributes to a higher metabolism, which increases caloric use both while at work and rest, which in turn reduces the risk of obesity. Another important benefit to note is that when a child has good strength, they are more likely to have stronger tendons, ligaments and general joint health which reduces the risk of serious injury.
Exercise helps in children’s cognitive development
Childhood is an important and sensitive period for cognitive development. As a parent, it is important to foster your child’s cognitive development as soon as he/she is born because doing so provides the foundation for your child’s success in school and later in life.
Cognitive development means how children think, explore and figure things out. It is the development of knowledge, skills, problem solving and dispositions, which help children to think about and understand the world around them. Brain development is part of cognitive development.
There are several hypothesized theories as to why exercise is beneficial in children for brain health and cognition:
– Increase your child’s blood flow and the amount of oxygen their brain gets. Increasing the oxygen levels in their blood and their brain can help your child’s nerves and neurons develop secure connections that are less likely to experience disruptions.
– Increase levels of noradrenaline and endorphins in the brain, which help to reduce stress and improve mood. These healthy connections can also help your child deal with anxiety, mood swings, and depression, all conditions that disrupt your child’s development and ability to navigate life’s challenges as they age.
– Increases the amount of slow-wave sleep you get. Sleep is the most important tool nature uses to grow a child’s brain and slow-wave sleep refers to deep sleep, where the brain and body have a chance to rejuvenate. During sleep, the brain makes new connections, stores memories, and repairs cells. Secure connections in the brain can lead to a lower risk of cognitive defects and learning disabilities.
– Lastly, exercise results in a healthier brain, which can help kids get the most out of school. Physical activity and exercise, especially during the school day, may improve a child’s behaviour in the classroom along with an increased attention span.
Kids Exercise builds confidence!
As a child progresses into adulthood, self-confidence plays an important role in their development and growth. Kids who feel good about themselves have the confidence to try new things. They are more likely to try their best. They feel proud of what they can do. Self-esteem helps kids cope with mistakes. It helps kids try again, even if they fail at first. As a result, self-esteem helps kids do better at school, at home, and with friends.
There is now extensive research showing that physical exercise leads to an increase in self-confidence in children. Engaging in physical activities from a young age can help children remain positive and energetic, and will cultivate good habits that will last a lifetime.
Exercise is especially important for children with special needs
Research has shown that the benefits of regular physical activity and exercise for children with special needs (who tend to be less physically active and are at higher risk of inactivity complications) can impact their physical, emotional and social development. Despite what some may believe, children with special needs can demonstrate strength gains, increased flexibility, improved bone health, better endurance and cardiovascular fitness with the addition of regular exercise to their routines.
When encouraged to participate in frequent fitness measures, many students with special needs see physical improvements in everything from their hand-eye coordination and flexibility, to their muscle strength, endurance, and even cardiovascular efficiency.
For children with special needs, developing a sense of self-esteem can be particularly important, as they may often feel isolated and removed from the group. Regular fitness has been linked to mental improvements regarding self-esteem, social awareness, and self-confidence, traits that can empower children with special needs throughout their adolescence.
Finally, physical fitness leads to cognitive improvements in children with special needs, allowing them to access skills that they couldn’t challenge within a traditional classroom setting. The structure of sport – which comes with a set of rules and organization, can be a learning tool that helps children to practice self-regulation and enhance their decision-making skills. They can learn to focus on specific goals and work on their verbal communication by interacting with peers through sport.
Children are spending an increased amount of time on their screens, living a more sedentary than active lifestyle. As a parent, teaching children the importance of physical activity and building it into their lives can change the trajectory of their long-term health positively. The best thing that we can do as a parent is model the behaviour that we want to see in our children. Being that ‘healthy role model’ will not only help them stay physically fit but mentally fit as well.
Exercising as a family is always a great idea as it builds family time into a healthy activity. Take advantage of public parks, playgrounds and basketball courts in your community. Challenge your child to take time off from electronic devices and play with their friends. Another option is at-home exercises that would require minimal equipment. Sometimes all you need is your computer or smartphone to play a video. Aim for at least one hour of activity daily, including aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening exercises.