KIDS’ PHYSICAL HEALTH: Encourage Kids to Keep Moving

This is the fourth article in a 6-part series on Kids’ Health Tips from Dr. Erik Bostrom, family physician at Riverwood Healthcare Center in Aitkin.

For most kids, playing and being physically active comes naturally. Exercise tends to become more structured as kids age with gym class, dance lessons, or soccer practice.

Unfortunately, kids are sitting around a lot more than they used to do. Kids and teens now spend hours every day in front of a screen (TVs, smartphones, tablets, and other devices) looking at a variety of media (TV shows, videos, movies, games). Too much screen time and not enough physical activity can lead to childhood obesity.

One of the best ways to get kids to be more active is to limit the amount of time spent in sedentary activities, especially watching TV or other screens. Do not allow a TV in your child’s bedroom.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends parents:

  • Put limits on the time spent using media—TV, cell phones and video games.
  • Limit screen time to 1 hour/day or less for children 2 to 5 years old.
  • Discourage any screen time, except video-chatting, for kids younger than 18 months.
  • Turn off all screens during mealtimes and at bedtime.

Benefits of Being Active
When kids are active, their bodies can do the things they want and need them to do. Why? Because regular exercise provides these benefits: strong muscles and bones, weight control, decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, better sleep and a better outlook on life.

Healthy, physically active kids also are more likely to be academically motivated, alert, and successful. And physical competence builds self-esteem at every age. Many organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control, recommend at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily for a child.

As a parent, one of the best things you can do is be a good role model. Invite your children to be active with you, going for hikes, biking, swimming and other fun family activities.