The benefits of exercise for children are indisputable. It enhances their physical and mental health and prevents obesity. It even helps their learning and concentration. And yet, a recent study conducted by the British Journal of Sports medicine found that children’s exercise levels were declining from the age of seven.
How much exercise should children be doing?
The NHS guidelines suggest that children under 5 years old shouldn’t be inactive for long periods. The only exception is when they’re asleep. This really surprised me. Especially because children start school at four years old, and from then on they spend a lot of time sitting.
Even after the age of five, children aged up to 18 years old should exercise for at least an hour a day. This should range from moderate to vigorous activity. The guidelines also state that on three days a week, the hour of exercise should include a workout that strengthens muscles and bones.
I have to admit, I had no idea children needed to exercise so much. I also wasn’t aware of the need to do specific exercises that strengthen muscles and bones. I was always under the impression that any physical activity would do.
How to get children active
I’ve written before about cheap ways to get children involved in sport. I’m also working with Vitality Move to help them promote their fitness and music festival. The whole idea of the festival is to get people active. Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill is the face of the festival, and Trevor Nelson is heading up the music side of things. So even if you don’t fancy running, you can walk, skip or dance a distance from a mile to 10K.
My children love sport and exercise and I’ve found the most important thing to keep them interested is to let them try different activities. My main sport as a child was swimming. After I stopped swimming competitively, I got into running, triathlon and water polo too. But if those aren’t the sports that my girls want to do, that’s fine by me. Both girls have tried a variety of sports already. For now, they’ve both settled on swimming and Libby also does rhythmic gymnastics and Lia does ballet.
But structured sports classes aren’t everything. It’s just as important to run around outside, play on the trampoline, walk in fields and splash in puddles. I’m not sure if I will go as far as to get my children doing muscle strengthening exercise when they’re older. The NHS suggest things like push-ups, but I’m pretty sure swimming will do just fine.
Do children understand the benefits of exercise?
Much as I try to ask the girls what they’ve learnt about at school, I don’t get much out of them. So I thought I’d see how much they understood about the benefits of exercise. It seems like they understand quite a bit.
If you’d like to take part in the VitalityMove fitness and music festival in either Chatsworth in July or Windsor in September, you can use the code NATALIE10 at the checkout for 10% off the ticket price. For every paying entry, VitalityMove will donate £1 to Diabetes UK.