- Daily 30 to 60 minutes of lifestyle physical activity (active play, indoor/outdoor chores, taking the stairs, bike riding, etc.)
- Three to four days a week Minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic activity or active sports
- Three days a week, preferably daily Flexibility exercise
- Two to three days a week Muscle strength training and calisthenics
A structured exercise session consists of a warm-up, aerobic phase, cool down, and strength training.
Warm-up During the warm-up, children do light activity for two to eight minutes. This makes the muscles more elastic and increases flexibility. Try jumping jacks, fast walking, calisthenics, and simple stretching.
Aerobic phase Typically lasts 15 to 40 minutes. Walking fast, running, swimming, cycling, and playing soccer or other sports or activities that have an endurance factor are all good ways to strengthen the heart and reduce children’s risk for developing heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.
Cool down A three to five minute cool-down allows the heart rate to return to normal. Walking slowly and doing flexibility exercises that stretch the calves, thighs, lower back, and upper body are good ways to cool down.
Strength training This phase of an exercise session should include exercises to increase the strength and power of the major muscle groups of the body, including muscles in the back, legs, and chest. Children and teens can focus on strength training after a cool down or on alternate days. Pushups, pull-ups, crunches, and lunges are a few examples of strength-development activities.
An important aspect of children’s involvement in physical activity and sports is desire and enthusiasm. Expose children to a variety of sports and allow them to choose which activities they want to participate in. Summer camps, recreation centers, churches, and other programs in the community provide a variety of sport activities and leagues. Being exposed to different sports allows children to find out which ones they are good at and like. And remember, children’s sports should be fun, not focused on competition.
Most importantly, help children include physical activity in their lives. Plan fun family or school activities at the park. Volunteer to coach a little league team. Be a good role model. It will help your children or students on their path to a healthy future.