Children should engage in at least one hour of physical activity every day. This does not have to happen all at one time. Just 10 minutes of physical activity can result in health benefits.
Three types of exercise: aerobic activity, muscle strengthening and bone strengthening are important for health in growing children. Physical activity can be a combination of any of these three.
The greatest part of the exercise hour should be spent doing aerobic activities which involve moving lots of muscles at one time. Running, brisk walking, biking and swimming all are good choices to get the heart rate up and the body moving. Muscle strengthening activities include exercises such as pushups and sit ups. Bone strengthening exercises focus on putting a little pressure on bones and may include stair climbing or lifting and carrying.
A good goal for children is to participate in these activities at least three days a week. Even when the weather outside is frightful, children can still get the physical activity they need. Using things found in and around the home can provide opportunities for family fun and exercise.
Here are some indoor activity ideas along with the appropriate age for participants:
• Stair climber – Ages: 6 and up. All you need is a set of stairs and a stop watch.
Take turns to see how fast you can get up the stairs and back down. Challenge family members to beat the fastest time.
• Pushup Challenge – Ages: 5 and up. See who will be the pushup champion of the week. Challenge one another to see who can do the most pushups in one minute from week to week and you will be amazed at the increase of strength in the whole family. This also works with sit ups or crunches.
• Chinese Jump Rope – Ages: 6 and up. Using basic materials this game is fun for everyone. Tie a rope around the legs of two chairs set approximately 4 feet apart. Take turns jumping into and out of the ropes between the chairs. After everyone has a turn, raise the rope up a little bit. Start with easy combinations such as jumping in and out of the ropes, and then let everyone make up a different pattern. Some examples: two feet jump in, one foot jumps out, two feet jump in, both feet jump out on either side of the rope.
A good exercise program is not only important for the physical health of growing children, but it also can be a positive motivator that boosts our moods and energy levels during a traditionally less active time of year.
For more information about exercise for the non-athlete this winter, contact the Logan County Cooperative Extension Service at 726-6323.