Many skills developed during childhood and adolescence establish lifelong habits – both good and bad. These include study, social interaction, diet and food choice, and other healthy habits, such as exercise and physical activity.
Regular physical activity promotes lifelong health. When children are physically active, they have greater levels of cardiac and respiratory stamina, stronger muscles and bones, and lower body fat. There are also brain health and emotional benefits, such as greater cognitive ability and a lower risk for depression.
Studies also show that exercise improves memory, attention and academic performance. In addition, good dietary and activity habits developed in childhood lead to good habits as adults, just as a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle in childhood can be difficult to alter in adolescence and adulthood.
So how much and what type of physical activity do kids need? The types of activity vary by age, and different sorts of movement help teach diverse skills.
For example, preschool children, generally ages 3 to 5, need to engage in active play, such as running, throwing a ball and riding a tricycle. Weight-bearing activities, such as hopping and jumping, can develop strong bones. Group activities, such as taking turns on the slide or with active toys, and exercise with other kids foster social skills. And organized activities, such as swimming, dance or gymnastics lessons, and walks with the family, encourage and teach team building and interpersonal-relations skills.
Limiting screen time, especially for this age group, and ensuring your child gets about three hours of activity daily are likewise critical.
It’s important to be active with your kids, and if you can keep up with them, you’ll stay healthy, too! Be sure to tune in to our next Kids MD column in the June 11 edition of Ladue News for information focusing on activity for school-age children and adolescents.
Dr. Joseph Kahn is president of Mercy Kids (mercykids.org), an expansive network of pediatric care dedicated to meeting the needs of every child, every day.
To find a physician near you, please visit mercy.net/laduenews.