Children and physical activity

Children who aren't active enough are at a higher risk of developing chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other cardiovascular illnesses.

Children and youth aged 5 to 17 should get 60 minutes a day of medium to intense physical activity. Currently only 9% of this target group meets the recommendation.

Benefits of physical activity

Physical activity is an important part of healthy living at any age, and it's essential for children.

Physical activity helps children:

  • develop cardiovascular fitness, strength, flexibility, and bone density
  • maintain a healthy body weight
  • reduce the risk of chronic disease and health problems
  • lessen the likelihood of tobacco, alcohol, and drug use
  • feel better every day, through improved mental health and well-being

Making regular physical activity a habit at an early age will provide your child with lifelong benefits. Adults with higher levels of activity are able to carry out their daily tasks more easily and with less fatigue and, later in life, enjoy lower rates of bone loss associated with osteoporosis while also maintaining strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination.

How much physical activity is enough?

It is recommended that children and youth get at least 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity.

Reaching this goal is easy. Increase your child's physical activity by just five or 10 minutes every few weeks. The time they spend being active will eventually add up to 60 minutes a day.

You should also decrease time spent on sedentary activities such as watching TV, playing computer games, surfing the web, and using motorized transportation.

Ways to encourage physical activity

Physical activity is more than just organized sports. It can include everyday activities like walking the dog, planting a garden, playing tag, building a snowman or tobogganing, and even household chores like sweeping or shoveling the driveway.

Here are a few tips to help teach children the importance of daily physical activity:

  • Encourage them to walk or ride their bikes to school instead of taking the bus.
  • Schedule active time for your children after school.
  • Combine periods of moderate activity like walking or biking with periods of more vigorous activity such as running or playing soccer or tag.
  • Activities like swimming, soccer, baseball, dancing, gymnastics, skiing, and basketball provide opportunities to learn new skills while having fun. Check with local schools and community centres for affordable programs.
  • Balance the day with physical activities that are informal and unstructured, like playing tag or building a snowman. This is particularly important for children who tend to shy away from competition.
  • Set a positive example by being physically active as a family. Plan regular outings to hike, cycle, walk, or skate.
  • Remember to praise your children for being active. Confidence is the key to success!
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