An active child is a happy and healthy child! I know this all too well. In a way, kids are like dogs-- get them out for a walk, tucker them out, and afterwards they are happy, calm, and well behaved. And with time and practice, kids will grow to love regular exercise! Trust me, our 6 and 4 year old will choose going on a hike or bike ride any day over their iPad. Corbin, our 6 year old, has gone on countless hikes, which will be memories he will always be able to hang on to. Unfortunately, less than 24% of kids aged 6-17 get the recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. Kids just aren't as active as they used to be, which can be attributed to decreased physical education funding, increased screen time, the development of motorized scooters/bikes, and more. This is disheartening because exercise is so important to kids and it has so many amazing benefits to offer them.
Now lets go over how exercise benefits our kids in a little more detail:
Decreases the risk of obesity. This is an obvious benefit, but it is true and important nonetheless. Obesity leads to chronic disease, and if kids are overweight or obese as children, they will be more prone to chronic disease as adults too. Let's take responsibility and help our kids to avoid type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease later in life!
Reduces anxiety and depression. Have you ever felt better after crushing a hard workout? That's because exercise releases endorphins, which make us happy and are natural stress relievers. Exercise works better than medication as and anti-depressant and anti-anxiolytic in kids. Furthermore, exercise helps kids to have confidence and a better outlook on life. I've experienced this first hand in our kids. After Corbin hiked his first 14'er at 6 years old, he had so much more confidence in other aspects of life. Multiple times he'd remark, “I can do _________ , because I've hiked a 14'er.”
Promotes healthy bones and muscle growth. Bones and muscles are tissues that grow stronger only when they are used regularly and given resistance. Exercise gives bones and muscles what they need to strengthen, which leads to strong, healthy children. On the contrary, sitting on the couch for endless hours playing video games leads to tissue destruction, weakening bones and muscles.
Improves sleep habits. Anyone who's a parent knows that having children is exhausting! But if kids' sleep habits are improved, everybody benefits. Exercise can help regulate our natural circadian rhythms and help us to get to sleep more quickly and stay asleep longer.
Studies have shown that exercise improves classroom functioning in kids with behavioral disorders. I also can personally attest to the fact that my own children are much more well-behaved on days they've had a good amount of exercise versus days they've been cooped inside all day.
Just as in adults, exercise is so important in our kiddos! Let's help instill exercise as a lifestyle and habit when our kids are young so they are able to fully reap each of its amazing benefits. My hope is that our children will carry over our daily family walks, our love of hiking, and our habit of working out in their lives as adults. It really is a lifestyle, and the sooner it's learned the better!