21 Jun The Importance of Physical Activity During Early Childhood
Get Up, Get Moving!
Exercise is a frequent topic of conversation among adults and most people are aware of the importance of leading and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Equally as important is ensuring our young children likewise participate in a healthy dose of physical activity every day. By introducing such habits during early childhood, kids are more likely to develop a healthy lifestyle for years to come.
Part of a child’s job is to simply play and for many kids, they are naturally active both at home and in school. As early as infancy, babies need to be able to move (when they’re not sleeping, of course!) to develop muscle tone and motor skills. Toddlers and preschoolers benefit from both structured and unstructured play time during which they can run, move and be active. And older children likewise benefit from physical activity, often performing better in the classroom when they’re afforded frequent opportunities to be active.
The Benefits of Physical Activity
Adopting a healthy lifestyle and encouraging physical activity during the early childhood years provides a lengthy list of benefits for children, including the following:
• Helps maintain a healthy weight
• Decreases a child’s risk for developing diabetes
• Encourages stronger bones, muscles, heart and lungs
• Develops stronger fine and gross motor skills
• Lowers blood pressure
• Helps create and establish important brain connections that in turn foster improved concentration and a better ability to focus
• Improves children’s confidence and happiness
• Increases energy levels
• Improves balance, coordination, and posture
• Often leads to better sleep
• Encourages healthy habits now and in the future
Types of Physical Activity
Children should and usually engage in various types of physical activity each day. Through organized activities such as basketball, soccer and swimming and unstructured play times that involve running, dancing and jumping, for example, their lungs work harder and their heart gets pumping. This improves both their endurance and releases endorphins that can improve their mood.
By learning how to properly do traditional exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups and pull-ups and also enjoying climbing a tree or the monkey bars, kids build their strength and get stronger. Finally, adults are often envious of children’s seemingly natural flexibility – by simply reaching, tumbling, doing cartwheels and playing during early childhood, kids improve upon their flexibility. This is particularly important – not only does flexibility make bending and stretching easier, but also it helps prevent injuries.
Encouraging Physical Activity at Home and In School
Physical Activity during early childhood should be promoted both at home and in school. In fact, teachers are frequently turning to programs that provide “brain breaks”, yoga or other types of movement to get their students up and active – by doing so, young learners in preschool and beyond are often better able to concentrate and focus on what is expected.
As a parent, you can easily encourage healthy habits – check out the list below to get started today!
• As a family, engage in physical activities such as a quick game of catch, taking a bike ride or walk together.
• Enroll kids in sports or other age-appropriate activities that allow them to both play with others and get moving.
• Be a good role model! When kids see their parents engaging in physical activity, they’re more likely to do the same.
• Keep things fun! Who wants to exercise when they’re bored or uninterested in the activity? Find things that are of interest to your little ones and dive in!