Physical Exercise in Children: Everything You Need to Know

Physical exercise in children keeps them away from sedentary lifestyles, strengthens their muscles, sharpens their coordination, and lays the foundation for their future health.
Physical Exercise in Children: Everything You Need to Know

Last update: 08 August, 2021

Physical exercise in children is any activity that aims to improve health, performance, and quality of life. Unlike adult physical activity, this exercise is planned, structured, and systematic. The child’s age doesn’t matter. In fact, the earlier it begins, the better…especially when it comes to physical exercise in children.

Exercise keeps children away from sedentary lifestyles and prevents obesity. In this regard, in the last few years, experts have raised some red flags, especially since the use of communication technologies and social networks has increased, keeping even the youngest of children in front of screens.

On average, children spend more than two hours exposed to technological equipment per day, such as video game consoles and cell phones. These have an impact on the scarce attention they devote to physical exercise and influence the intake of high-calorie foods.

The benefits of physical exercise in children

Children preparing to run a race.
Physical exercise has physical, social, and personal benefits in children.

Physical exercise in children increases the metabolic activity of their muscles, as they’ll need more oxygen and nutrients and, at the same time, get rid of waste.

To achieve a metabolic increase, the system redistributes blood flow to the active muscles. These, by tapping into the bloodstream, absorb oxygen and nutrients.

Physical exercise in children provides cardiorespiratory capacity, flexibility, strength, endurance, and coordination. And that’s just the physical aspect, but there are social benefits as well. Indeed, exercising favors the relationships they establish with others and with their environment and, on a personal level, improves their self-esteem.

Consequences of the lack of physical exercise on children’s health

What’s complex is the building of the habit of physical activity and exercise in the face of the ease of immobility and sedentary lifestyles that entertainment and communication technologies impose.

This reality has become even worse thanks to situations such as the covid-19 pandemic. This has made outdoor recreation impossible in many cases, as well as interrupting conventional life patterns.

In these conditions, control over digital devices, fluid communication, and the monitoring of routines, schedules, and basic habits are urgent needs.

In addition to the physical problems resulting from lack of exercises, such as obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, and immune system disorders, there are also intellectual and social problems. So, low physical activity has an impact on school performance, concentration, and sleep.

If a healthy body reflects exercise, then the social and community bodies, in turn, reflect socialization. A child who exercises strengthens their bones and muscles while nourishing their self-esteem and warding off depression, stress, and discouragement.

Exercises that children can do

To improve their cardiorespiratory endurance, flexibility, muscular endurance, and coordination, we’ll present safe and simple alternatives to do with children.

The first is dancing. Besides being excellent exercise, it’s a lot of fun. It involves the whole body, increases blood circulation, corrects postures, and exercises coordination. Along the same lines, there are certain yoga postures that you can perform perfectly with the little ones in your house.

You can also conduct aces, which children love to do, using strategies such as obstacles, distances, and types of routes with a stopwatch in hand. Another exercise is jumping rope. It burns calories, sharpens coordination and concentration, works and strengthens the legs, arms, shoulders, and spine, and is an excellent aerobic exercise.

Finally, sit-ups and squats. Regarding the former, you should guide them with caution. Children take their parents as a model and abusing sit-ups causes pain and atrophy. Planks, leg lifts, and sit-ups are strength exercises that require relative care.

Exercises that should not be performed by children

A child pretending to lift weights.
Physical and emotional development are favored with Crossfit kids, always under the control of a specialist.

Some exercises put children’s muscles, tendons, joints, and spine at risk. Pay attention to recognize them and try to avoid them. Although you may confuse them with games, they place tension on sensitive and developing parts of children’s bodies. Prudence and common sense are the keys. For example, walking while squatting and holding on to your ankles can injure the meniscus, tendons, and knees.

As for stretching, bridges that involve bending backward until your hands touch the floor are risky. That’s because they put pressure on the spine.

Also, kids should avoid trying to touch the tips of their toes with their hands, which produces pressure on the spine, pelvis, and abdominal muscles. This same is true for making wide and fast circles with their necks, which could affect the first vertebrae. They should only perform them from side to side and gently.

However, exercises that children should never perform without adult and professional accompaniment are those having to do with strength training with weight lifting. These are exercises that increase their bone mass, muscle strength, and motor skills, but require special attention.

Myths about whether they affect growth have been dismissed; however, personalized routines should preferably take place under medical evaluation.

The WHO recommendations on physical activity in children

Sedentary lifestyles, obesity, and inactivity cause nearly 5 million deaths in the world population each year. For this reason, the World Health Organization has warned of the need for children to spend less time sitting and more time playing.

The figures speak for themselves: 23% of adults and 80% of adolescents “don’t get enough physical activity,” says the organization. Hence the importance of establishing healthy lifestyle habits with fewer screens, more games, and more hours of good quality sleep.

The recommendations aim to improve children’s motor and cognitive development in the first five years. This is to form the basis for a healthy life. In all cases, no more than one hour of screen time and about three hours of physical activity with routines and practices of varying intensity, from moderate to high, should be distributed throughout the day.

Physical exercise in children: A guarantee of health in adulthood

Research indicates that the origin of cardiovascular diseases is found in childhood and adolescence. The levels of lipids or fats, lipoproteins, blood pressure, and obesity also reach adulthood.

In addition, physical exercise patterns in children tend to continue into adulthood. If children haven’t acquired certain habits before they reach adulthood, likely, they won’t acquire them in adulthood either. Overall, experts have concluded that childhood and adolescence are the foundation of healthy men and women.

At the same time, although physical condition and genetics weigh heavily in the disposition to physical activity, some elements are imperative. For this reason, creating the social and motivational conditions and opportunities for children and adolescents to engage in physical exercise and competitive sports is of vital importance.

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