Kids need exercise. Regular physical activity contributes to your child’s health, happiness, and future wellbeing. Physical activity can be separated into two categories: aerobic and anaerobic activity. Anaerobic activity includes weight lifting and other forms of exercise that don’t improve cardiovascular efficiency. This form of working out isn’t ideal for kids, who should wait until adolescence before beginning any serious weight training activities. Aerobic activity produces increased heart rate, heavier breathing and increases cardiovascular efficiency. Typically, children’s physical activity is in the form of aerobic cardio activities. Cardio is an impactful form of exercise that has two great benefits: it contributes to your child’s heart and lung strength along with wearing out that endless kiddo energy!
Aerobic exercise strengthens the heart and lungs, for both kids and adults. Cardio exercise causes the heart to pump blood more quickly through the body and for your breathing rate to increase as your lungs take in more oxygen. Alongside whatever muscles are gaining strength and endurance when your child is doing cardio, the same strengthening is happening for the heart and lungs. Children who do cardio exercise regularly have healthier hearts, lungs, and a better chance of continuing on into adulthood as healthy individuals without chronic disease.
When we think of strength, the first thing that comes to mind for most of us is muscle strength. With cardio, we also think of organ strength for the heart and lungs. But an important component of regular exercise — particularly weight-bearing, high-impact exercise like running or jumping — is the effect it has on bone health. Cardio (including the jumping, climbing, and running kids do on the playground) strengthens bones by increasing bone density. Building healthy, strong bones in childhood leads to healthier, stronger bones into adulthood and can help prevent bone problems like osteoporosis later in life.
Sports & Recess
Unlike adults, who tend to treat cardio like a chore to be accomplished, kids have many ways to enjoy the benefits of cardio activity while having a blast! Daily recess time when in school gives kids a chance to run out their extra energy in the middle of the day. Depending on the activity level and interest of your kids, their recess time might provide them with the recommended hour of moderate physical activity each day.
For all kids, group sports are an excellent opportunity for children to make friends, be physically active, and learn from being part of a team. Some children will gravitate towards or be encouraged to pursue sports teams, but it’s an opportunity that every parent should consider for their child. Particularly for younger children, where team sports aren’t as competitive, sports are a positive, healthy activity for kids to enjoy.
Cardio exercise comes in many different forms, particularly for children, where play is often a physically demanding activity. Children of all ages, activity levels, and ability levels should be getting their hour a day of moderate physical activity. If your kiddo isn’t getting enough regular exercise, work with them to determine what forms of activity they enjoy and help ensure that they have the time each day to be active. Cardio options for kids include running, swimming, playing games or sports in your local park, playing for at least an hour on a playground, going for a long walk as a family, or any other moderate physical activities that raise your child’s heart and breathing rates.
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