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How Much Exercise Is Enough For Kids?
by Stacy Popke / July 19, 2008

Children's exercise is a hot topic nowadays. With childhood obesity on the rise and video games all the rage, the odds of being fit seem to be stacked against today's youth. The grim prospect of overweight and obese children transforming into obese adults is a deadly message we cannot turn a blind eye to.

One study revealed that an estimated 80% of overweight adolescents were obese by the time they reached age 25. If this isn't a cry for help, then what is? It is clear that physical activity, along with a nutritious diet with a moderate caloric intake, is a must for children if they are to be healthy into adulthood.

But how much physical activity is enough for kids? Will too much exercise harm their growing, adolescent bodies?

Recommended Exercise Guidelines from the NASPE

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) offers a report on exercise guidelines for children aged 5-12. This document, Physical Activity for Children: A Statement of Guidelines for Children Ages 5-12, is revised periodically to provide an accurate look at the physical fitness needs of children.

The latest edition recommends that children get at least an hour of exercise each day. This should be accomplished most days of the week, and preferably every single day. The guidebook encourages children to exceed that one hour minimum and to exercise for several hours, if it can be done reasonably and safely.

The recommended amount of exercise does not have to be done all at once. It is acceptable for children to break up this activity into 15-minute blocks. If fact, children are encouraged to keep their blocks of physical activity to less than two hours. Exercising for extended periods of time is stressful for the body and the risk of injury is heightened.

The report also encourages a variety of physical activities to be experienced on a regular basis. This allows for the achievement of total health and keeps the body from reaching an exercise plateau, thereby decreasing the effectiveness of exercise on health.

Strength Training Safety from the ACE

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) considers children as young as six years of age to be fit enough to strength train. Training using weights helps increase a child's athletic ability, muscularity, and motor fitness. Once thought to cause injury, we now know that strength training actually has the capability to decrease injury in children.

Strength training can involve using weights or just bodyweight. Good exercises for children to start out with include push-ups, pull-ups, and crunches. All body parts should be worked out in order to avoid muscular imbalances, which would increase risk of injury.

As with adults who train, children are advised to maintain good form throughout the exercises. An adult should be available during the workout in order to provide guidance and support. To decrease risk of an injury, it is recommended that children complete a warm-up and pre-workout stretch before exercising and, following their workout, do a cool-down and post-workout stretch.

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