Get Up, Get Out, and Get Moving
Baby & Child Fitness
When Should a Child Start Exercising
By Tabibi 24/7
In our age of fast food and endless TV channels, most children spend too much time on the couch and not enough time exercising. This sedentary lifestyle that is especially present in Egypt is causing major health problems for all ages. In fact, approximately 95% of Egyptian girls and 85% of Egyptian boys are not getting their recommended amount of daily exercise by the age 13. This is leading to a high level of childhood and adult obesity in Egypt with approximately 70% of Egyptians over the age of 30 obese or overweight according to the World Health Organization. As parents, we need to take the initiative to help our children start early to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
So how can you help your children to stay healthy? You can provide nutritious foods and encourage your children to get outside and exercise. Exercising will not only help improve your physical health, but also mental health and overall self-confidence and well-being. “Some short-sighted people thought that cutting back on time spent on physical education to spend more time drilling for tests would improve test scores,” says Howell Wechsler, director of the Division of Adolescent and School Health for (US based) the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC). “But in fact there are a lot of studies that show that more time for PE and other physical activity help improve academic performance.”
But how much exercise does your child need? According to the Mayo Clinic, children over the age of six need at least one hour of physical exercise every day. This daily exercise should include aerobic exercise and muscle/bone strengthening activities.
So, on your child’s sixth birthday, you should sign them up for the neighbourhood sports team, right? Not necessarily…
Children at any age can exercise, but that doesn›t mean you should stick your two year old on the treadmill. It means that at a young age, children should be encouraged to participate in physical activities through unstructured free play.
Between the ages of two and five, children can exercise by running around the house and yard, playing catch with light balls, dancing, climbing, or riding tricycles. Be creative and see what types of physical activities your toddler enjoys. Help make exercise fun for your children, and they will learn to love it!
By the age of six most children are ready for organized sports because their coordination and ability to follow directions and work as a team has improved. Sports like tennis, football, baseball, and swimming are great for children because these sports help children exercise while having fun. Make time in your schedule to attend their matches and practices. If you do, your children will realize how much you value their efforts and talents.
When children reach the age of 8, they are ready for most types of sports including martial arts. They can even begin strength training at this age as long as they are supervised by a mature adult. However, be careful not to “overtrain” your children while their bones and bodies are still developing and growing. Turning off the TV and going on a neighbourhood stroll will improve the physical and social health of the entire family. It doesn›t matter what type of exercise your family prefers, all that matters is that you get moving!
Being active and exercising is important for everyone in the family. Find ways to incorporate exercise into your family’s daily life and gradually increase the amount of exercise until your child is consistently meeting the required one hour of exercise a day. But the importance of physical exercise goes far beyond promoting a healthy weight for you and your child, it helps set up a habit of good physical, emotional, and mental health for an entire lifetime. So Egypt, don’t wait another minute. It is time to get up, get out, and get moving!