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Planned Exercise Time for Children
By Tyler G. Travis, M.A., ACSM-HFS, CSCS

There is no question that exercise is important for children. Children have become increasingly more sedentary leading to obesity and other health issues. Children are developing adult diseases such as type II diabetes and other risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease. However, there are ways to overcome inactivity by reinforcing movement and encouraging children to be active through planned exercise time.

Children love routine as much as adults do and having a planned exercise time helps prepare them for a lifetime for healthy activity. The type of exercise should vary with age and physical development. While all children chronologically age at the same time, their physiological development can differ greatly. Just because the five year old down the street can catch a football does not mean that all five year olds should be able to catch a football. Children develop motor skills at different rates as well and learning complex movements can take weeks and months to develop. The child should learn how to perform a movement well before adding too many repetitions. Therefore the frequency, intensity, time, and type of exercise should be appropriate for the skill level of the child.

It can be difficult to specify an exercise readiness age. It is recommended that exercises and activities be based on maturity level, experience and skill. With children that are very young it is especially important to find activities that are fun and pleasing to the child. If competition in an activity becomes a focus before the skills for the activity are developed, then the child's level of enjoyment may be at risk. Think about how frustrating it may be for five-year old to play a game of basketball where they could shoot only at the ten foot hoop. Negative experiences at a young age can reduce the likelihood that a child will participate in physical activity as an adult. It is also important for children to be generalist when it comes to sport activity. Early specialization can lead to over usage injuries.

Encourage exercise time and activity in children. Focus on children accumulating 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. While cardiovascular exercise has been traditionally encouraged, the American College of Sports Medicine supports the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which aims to increase the number of children who regularly participate in "muscle- and bone-strengthening" activities. Start physical activities that can be done as a family. Going for an outside walk, a family softball game, or even playing Frisbee with the dog is exercise, but most importantly fun and beneficial for the child.

Tyler G. Travis, Center Director, LECOM Medical Fitness & Wellness Center, can be reached at (814) 868-7800 or ttravis@powerwellness.com or visit www.lecomwellness.com.

Additional Resources: http://www.acsm.org/access-public-information/articles/2012/01/13/youth-strength-training-facts-and-fallacies

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