The Importance of Exercise
Updated: Aug 2, 2019
Pumping iron. Getting ripped. Toning up (or down).
When it comes to exercise, this is all language you probably don’t need to tell your students. It might be more suited for the body builders of the world.
Exercise. Being Active. Playing Games.
This is the language we need to be promoting to our students and encourage them to get out there and lead a healthy, active lifestyle.
In a world where technology is taking over and “Fortniting” is more popular than bike riding, it is important we all send the same consistent message about the importance of exercise to our students.
How much exercise do children need?
The Department of Health and Human Services say that children and adolescents age 6 and older need at least an hour a day of physical activity. Most of the hour should be either moderate or vigorous aerobic activity. Vigorous activity should be included at least three days a week.
Playing soccer, dance or other organised team sports are great ways to get fit, but they aren’t the only option. Playground activity and jumping rope also cover all the bases at once.
When most adults think about exercise, they imagine working out in the gym, running on a treadmill, or lifting weights. For kids, exercise means playing and being physically active. Kids exercise when they have phys ed class at school, during recess, at dance class or soccer practice, while riding bikes, or when playing tag.
As a parent or teacher, our job sometimes is to provide the setting and equipment so that children can be physically active. When this is done, kids usually let their creativity take over and handle the rest.
What are the benefits of exercise?
Everyone (young and old) benefits from regular exercise. Active kids will have:
- stronger muscles and bones
- leaner bodies
- less risk of becoming overweight
- a lower chance of getting type 2 diabetes
- lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels
- a better outlook on life
There is a lot more research being done on the mental benefits of physical exercise. Kids (and adults) who regularly exercise are better adapted to regulate their emotions. They are more likely to cope with change and become better social/emotional learners as they progress through adolescence and into adulthood. Students who regularly exercise are more inclined to perform better academically and sleep better – and we could do a whole other article on the benefits of sleep!
The Elements of Fitness
Ever watch kids playing in a yard or on a playground? If you have, you can probably pinpoint the elements of fitness. You’ve seen children:
- run away from the kid who's "it" (endurance)
- cross the monkey bars (strength)
- bend down to tie their shoes (flexibility)
Teachers and parents need to encourage their kids/students and establish a setting where they can work on and develop these elements.
Endurance takes shape when kids regularly get aerobic activity. Large muscles move and the heart beats faster. Aerobic activity includes (but not limited to):
- bike riding & more
Improving strength doesn’t have to mean being like Arnie and lifting weights. Kids can focus on push-ups, sit-ups and other core exercise to help tone and improve muscle strength. Kids also improve strength when they climb or even wrestle. Let them wrestle 😊
Flexibility can happen with stretching exercises. Go yoga! For any parent or teacher scared of teaching yoga, throw on an episode of Cosmic Kids. My 4 and 5-year-old children love it and would engage in episodes for hours (if we let them). Yoga not you’re thing? Kids stretch when they reach for a toy, practise a split or do a cartwheel.
The Challenge and what we can do to help
Kids spend more time today in front of screens and engaging in social media then ever before. Too much screen time and not enough physical activity are leading to growing rates of childhood obesity. As teachers and parents, we need to limit the screen time of our children.
Regular exercise and a healthy diet are the keys to a healthy lifestyle and the ability to live a long, fulfilling life.
Some tips to help get your students/children moving:
- Help your kids in a variety of age-appropriate activities.
- Set a regular schedule for physical activity *most important thing you can do in schools
- Find little things to help increase your physical activity (take stairs – not the elevator)
- Encourage the engagement of families to be active
- KEEP IT FUN!!!!!!
It’s not rocket science. Being active should be fun. It should be rewarding. In today’s world, it is our job as educators to push and encourage it a little bit more than we used to. Happy encouraging!