Children and Exercise

In our society today one of the most difficult problems we are facing is the large numbers of obesity in our children. One of the major factors in that is this; our children have become less physically active. At an early age children start watching TV, learn how to operate a computer, and play video games. Having technological skills is now a necessity in all of our lives because everything has turned “computerized,” but the fact is that our children are relying on these types of entertainment rather than getting up and physically exercising to entertain them selves.

This directly affects the large number of obese children in our country today because of the lack of physical exercise. It is not that we want our kids to look a certain way or to be better at sports than everyone else, but it is that we want our kids to be physically fit and to develop a healthy lifestyle. Physical exercise is not only for adults, it is for children as well, so we must understand the importance of our children exercising and the benefits from it. By doing that it will make an impact on that child for the rest of his/her life.

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The reason we should be hesitant to allow our children to watch TV or play video games is that once a child does that, then he/she starts to enjoy it and wants to do it more and more. It becomes an event that they look forward to doing. Whether it is anxiously waiting on a certain TV show to come on, or hurrying in the house to get to their favorite video game. Children have become obsessed with these types of entertainment and have completely forgot about physical activities. Children do not look forward to getting some friends over to play football in the backyard as much anymore.

They look forward to getting friends over to go inside and play a video game while eating chips and drinking cokes. Not only are they eating wrong foods, but also they are cutting out the physical activities to burn those calories off. Granted children should have restrictions on the types of food they eat, I am not taking anything away from that fact. But if a child is at least exercising then he/she will burn off a lot of those calories consumed in those unhealthy foods. So one question to ask is this; why are children becoming more dependent on technology rather than physical activity?

Parents play a huge role in answering this question. A parent’s influence on a child begins even before conception and never ends from that point on. Children are always watching and learning, and even as an adult, a son or daughter will still be influenced by their parents whether it be for something happening present time, or in the past. If a parent has a healthy exercise routine then it is likely that the child will want to pick that habit up as well. But on the other side, if a parent does not have good exercise habits, then the child will likely pick that up as well.

As parents, our nation has become fixated on putting our kids in front of a TV to occupy time. We think if we can put our children down in front of that TV and be able to walk away and “not have to deal with them” then we have accomplished something. But in doing that, all that happens is that the child becomes dependent on TV entertainment. Then when “Dad” gets home each night he sits down in his lazy chair and watches TV until he goes to sleep. To the child, this just reassures the fact that watching television is a daily routine for everybody.

Susan Kalish put it right on the dot when she said this; “Children are a reflection of their parents, and their society. If children are taught by sedentary, over weight teachers, brought up by inactive parents, and watch their grandparents retire only to sink into armchairs, it should surprise nobody that youngsters follow the examples they see. ” (Kalish) But if “mommy and daddy” knew all of the risks of their child NOT exercising then they might want to change some of the habits at home. According to the American Heart association, physical inactivity is a major risk factor for developing coronary artery disease.

It also increases the risk of stroke and such other major cardiovascular risk factors as obesity, high blood pressure, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol and diabetes. (American Heart Association) The World Heart Federation warned in September 2003 that failure to exercise is as bad for one’s health as smoking a pack of cigarettes every day. Physical inactivity doubles the chances of developing heart disease and increases the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure. Doctors estimate that between 65% and 85% of the world’s population fail to take enough exercise.

Two out of three children around the globe take too little exercise to improve their health. This is particularly true in Westernized nations where higher standards of living, modern conveniences and urban environments make exercise unnecessary and less enjoyable. (Diagnose-Me) Also, a study was done in Minnesota to determine if there was a connection between lack of exercise and depression. Participants were asked if they got 20 minutes of exercise at least three times a week; they also took a standard test for adolescent depression.

Higher levels of physical activity at the start of the seventh grade were tied to lower levels of depression at the same point, and increased activity over the next 2 years was associated with reduced depressive symptoms at the end. (IDEA) Not only are there medical downfalls to the lack of exercise, but everyday life is effected if children do not exercise the required amounts. When children get up in the morning they should have had a good nights rest, but in some cases this is not the fact.

Because of the lack of energy spent the day before, the child was not really tired when they went to sleep, so they really did not rest as well as they should have. Through the day kids should have plenty of energy to do everything required of them, and more. But if a child lacks regular exercise then sudden tasks that require more energy will seem to drain them. For example, a child must climb 4 flights of stairs in a shopping mall. At the top of the stairs he/she is winded and needs to stop and rest for a second.

During school hours children should be able to focus on their lessons and tasks, but when a child lacks the physical exercise then it is harder for them to concentrate on mental tasks. There is a direct connection between physical and mental wellness. When one end of that connection is broken then both ends will be affected, whether it is directly or, as in this case, indirectly. Children stop physically exercising which indirectly affects their mental performance. But on the other hand if the physical part is being held up, then it is only going to help mental performance as well.

There are many physical and mental benefits to a regular exercise pattern. The American Heart Association states that Physical activity produces overall physical, psychological and social benefits. It has been associated with an increased life expectancy and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Among other benefits are; controlling weight, reducing blood pressure, raising HDL cholesterol, reducing the risk of diabetes and some kinds of cancer, improved psychological well-being – including gaining more self confidence and higher self-esteem.

(American Heart Association) Also a child that participates in organized athletic activities or recreational physical activities with other peers develops social skills necessary for life (all physical activities do not require other peers to be involved, but this will only help in providing variety in physical activities to participate in). So the physical and mental aspects are clear for short-term effects of regular exercise as well as long-term effects. Curt Hinson believes that the goal should be to teach children that their level is acceptable, wherever they are, while at the same time encouraging them to move in a positive direction.

In this approach, fitness is a process. If you develop standards that define fit and unfit in a limited way, children come to view fitness as a product instead of a process, and they tend to become discouraged if they seem to be far away from an acceptable level. Their perceptions have an enormous effect on whether they choose to move in a positive or a negative direction on the fitness level. (Hinson) Exercise should start within the first weeks a baby is born. Granted what people generally think as “typical” exercise cannot be achieved, such as running, weight bearing exercises, etc.

But there are two types of exercise that all babies need; interaction with a caregiver, and exploration on their own. Eric Small, M. D. believes that an infant with these two different styles of play will develop his/her brain and intellect quicker, and will have an increased chance of growing into a more active child. (Small) Taking children out on walks will benefit you as well as the baby for a few different reasons. First of all you will be getting the exercise by walking and pushing or carrying the baby.

The child will also start to associate these outdoor walks with physical activity and later on may start to translate into an active outdoor playtime. On days that do not allow outdoor walks, indoor activities can develop motor skills necessary for a healthy life. Eric Small also says this about indoor activities; “A baby should not be placed in restrictive environments, such as car seats, cribs, or swings, for extended periods of time. Short periods of time are OK, but it is a good idea to move your baby to new play areas every so often.

Restrictive environments for long stays might delay your child’s gross motor skills – those integrated muscle actions that produce running, walking, throwing, and kicking. Instead, place the child on the floor and play. ” (Small) Children should be worked with to develop strength as well as motor skills. Once a child can stand the parent should do things such as hold the babies hands and walk with him/her to develop strength in the legs as well as walking skills. By working with children, parents can help develop good exercise habits that will benefit both the child and the parent later on in life.

After the infant stages, toddlers (eighteen months to three years) are beginning to really establish their fundamental gross motor skills: walking, running, jumping, hopping, and skipping. As with an infant, toddlers still require adult interaction to help with their physical activity, but they also need time to explore on their own. Toddlers should be exposed to at least thirty minutes a day of physical activity (Small). In this stage children can also begin to interact with other kids their age. They are not at the age to begin school, but day cares can offer this type of interaction as well as other siblings or relatives their age.

Using a variety of exercise environments will only help in using different methods for children to get their required amounts of exercise. This is also a time for parents to get outside a play with their children. Parents can play catch with the child, let them learn to kick and run, and play chase games like hide-n-seek and tag. Playground sets are also great because they allow children to push, pull, crawl, climb, and safely jump. Also swimming pools can provide a great amount of exercise for children because they are usually excited about getting in the water.

Unlike toddlers, preschoolers (ages three to five) are beginning to refine their movements, and they are using more complex motor skills for longer periods of time. They are anxious to explore new things and they alternate between bursts of energy and short periods of rest. They are also putting together more sophisticated movement skills such as running, jumping, and changing direction quickly. These patterns set the stage for movement in sports, such as basketball, soccer, tennis, and hockey.

Children at this age are most often attending nursery school or preschool, so the parent should look for preschool programs that enrich the curriculum with physical activities. Having appropriate indoor and outdoor play spaces are critical to children? s development. (Small) The last group that will be discussed is the school-age group (age six to eleven). There is no denying all the benefits exercise activities do for children this age. How children eat and exercise during this time of their life will affect the difficulty in maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle in later years in life.

They are now to the point where there is a huge variety of activities available to children their age. They have now developed their motor skills and muscle strength enough that they can participate in almost any physical activity. At first some new activities may seem unnatural for them, but with practice they can refine their skills to do the activities with ease. In addition to the health benefits, children involved in sports typically will have higher academic scores. In addition, these children will typically have improved “social intelligence,” which will lead to longer ongoing friendships.

For girls in particular, the confidence gained is especially important once they hit middle school and high school. Girls, most often, drop out of sports at this age if they are not encouraged (Small). Boys and girls alike need encouragement at this age. If a child feels he/she is doing a good job in athletic activities, then they will be more inclined to continue in these activities throughout the rest of their school years. George Sheehan, MD had this to say about exercise; “Play and physical activity are inextricably linked – not as a task, but as a reward; not as a question, but as an answer; not as a prescription, but as a lifestyle.

” (Kalish) Also, as mentioned before, there is not only physical benefits from exercise, but mental benefits as well. “A strong interaction exists between movement and cognitive stimulation; children “learn to move,” and to the physical educator’s credit, “learn through movement. ” The motor skill learning mechanism is, in part, a cognitive process. ” (Physical Ed. For Children) After comparing all of the risks of children not getting enough exercise to all of the benefits of those who do, the results are clear.

Children live a longer, healthier, happier life if regular physical activity is part of their daily life. Sources Mall, Eric. (2002). Kids and Sports: Everything you and your child need to know about sports, Physical activity, and good health – a doctor’s guide for parents an coaches. New York: Newmarket Press. Kalish, Susan. (1996). Your Child’s Fitness: Practical advice for parents. Champaigne: Human Kinetics. Hinson, Curt. (1995). Fitness for Children. Champaign: Human Kinetics. Gabbard, C. , LeBlanc, B. , ; Lowy, S. (1994).

Physical Education for Children: Building the Foundation, 2nd edition. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, inc. American Heart Association. Exercise (Physical Activity) and Children. April 4th, 2005 ; http://www. americanheart. org/presenter. jhtml? identifier=4596 ; Diagnose-Me. Problems associated with lack of exercise. March 27th, 2005. April 4th, 2005. ; http://www. diagnose-me. com/cond/C380381. html ;. IDEA Fitness Journal. Exercise Decreases Risk of Depression in Kids. October 2004. April 4th, 2005. ; http://pdfserve. galegroup. com/pdfserve/get_item/1/Scdbf1ew6 _1/SB806_01. pdf ;.