As a parent to a one-year-old, I have started to think about what sports she will want to do when she is older. Dance? Soccer? Wrestling?”
I dread to think about sitting through many practices and competitions for some of those sports. Then I recall my own childhood and realize that my parents spent hours sitting in a gym, on the side of the field, and coaching me to be the best at whatever sport I chose to try. My parents knew that physical activity is good for children.
You may have heard from your child’s health care provider about the goal of getting children an hour of daily activity. In fact, research has shown that getting one hour of physical activity daily in childhood reduces the risk of contracting chronic illnesses as an adult.
Nearly 66% of U.S. adults take medication for high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke or heart disease. The risk of developing these diseases can be significantly decreased by participating in moderate to vigorous physical activity for one hour a day, starting at a young age.
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One of the easiest ways to get your children to be physically active for an hour a day is to get them started at a young age in a sport or other activity. The sooner they get involved, the sooner they will learn what they do and do not like.
Swimming, soccer, wrestling, gymnastics, dance and martial arts allow kids to get involved at a very young age. If they develop a passion for a sport, they become committed and will strive to excel. They also develop lifelong friendships.
As they get into middle school and high school, the sports become much more competitive and require dedication and practice to make varsity teams. Kids who commit to sports get regular physical activity.
Family time is another excellent way to get your child moving. Riding bikes, going to the park, taking walks around the neighborhood or exploring local trails are great options for being active together.
Your children are more likely to participate in healthy activities if you are a role model. Children are encouraged when they see their parents enjoying exercise.
Encourage your children to participate in gym class or other physical activity, such as a lifting class, through their school. If your child does not participate in school fitness classes or is home schooled, look for other activity options. Parents can help children obtain a gym membership where they can be coached through activities. You may also create an age-appropriate exercise routine or fitness program individualized for your child’s interests and schedule.
Nearly half of all American adults have one or more preventable chronic illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among the 10 most common chronic illnesses, seven can be “favorably influenced by regular physical activity,” the CDC reports. Knowing this, I will encourage my daughter to participate in whatever activities get her moving.
If you aren’t sure what activities are appropriate for your child’s age, ask your child’s health care provider for recommendations.
Physician Assistant James Miller cares for children at RiverStone Health School-Based Clinics at Orchard Elementary and Medicine Crow Middle School. He also works in RiverStone Health pediatric behavioral health and the foster child program. He can be reached at 406-247-3210.