By Madeleine Ortiz
According to the World Health Organization, over 80% of adolescents do not get the recommended one hour of physical activity each day. Many experts have attributed the increase in childhood obesity to this sharp decline in physical activity – but weight and body size aren’t the only reasons children should be getting out and exercising every day. According to Dr. Julie St-Pierre, MD, PhD from Montreal, Canada, the benefits of physical activity go far beyond a healthy weight, especially when it comes to children and young adults. She shares her three favorite reasons why we should encourage our kids to move more.
1. Improved concentration and academic performance
Sitting and focusing for long periods of time, like children have to do in school, takes a lot of hard work. Dr. St-Pierre says that exercising regularly is actually a great way to help children concentrate. The more physical activity children get in a day the more likely they will be able to sit still, learn and remember things at school. It can make school more enjoyable for the student and help them complete their work and homework faster, allowing even more time for physical activity. This creates a positive cycle that can quickly become a great routine in a child’s life.
2. Better sleep
According to Dr. St-Pierre, a child who engages in physical activity on a regular basis will definitely have better quality sleep than a child who does not. And experts agree, sleep is indispensable when it comes to childhood development. Children who get enough quality sleep have improved physical and mental health. Additionally, says Dr. St-Pierre, children who get enough sleep have less cravings for sugary food and tend to make healthier choices throughout the day, even without their parents’ encouragement.
3. Improved self-esteem
Exercise, especially in the form of organized sports or after school activities helps to improve children’s self esteem. When children play a sport, says Dr. St-Pierre, they have the opportunity to set and reach goals big and small. As they progress through their objectives, they feel successful and they learn to build upon their success – both on a sports team and on their own. This perseverance and confidence is often carried into adulthood and leads to success throughout life.
Physical activity is amazing for the health of everyone, but this is especially true of children. Experts say parents should aim for their children to get an hour of activity a day – but any amount is better than nothing. And it doesn’t have to be an organized sport or activity. Dr. St-Pierre encourages parents to help children find physical activity they enjoy or that parents and children can do together. Don’t overthink it. Just get started and enjoy how it feels to be moving and getting healthy as a family. Soon your children will be choosing play over screen time on their own and reaping the benefits.
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