August 25, 2017
We are aware that we should all be exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet to stay healthy. For adults, we tend to set goals like going to the gym a few times a week, or going for a long run at the weekends. But how do we set goals and monitor whether our children are getting enough exercise? How much exercise should children be getting?
Children and adolescents should be accumulating a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate-vigorous physical activity per day. Moderate intensity should be intense enough to increase the heart and breathing rate, but still being able to hold a conversation.
A survey in 2010 showed that just 19% of Irish children aged 10-12 years old, and 12% of adolescents aged 12-18 years, are meeting the recommended physical activity levels. Physical activity reduces many health risks not just for adults and elderly but for children too. With the growing concern of childhood obesity in the EU (in Ireland nearly 1 in 4 children are overweight), physical activity is important now more than ever, along with a balanced diet, to maintain a healthy weight.
What type of exercise?
Physical activity should be part of your childs transportation, physical education, sport, free play and planned exercise. You can help by:
-encouraging daily walking as part of transportation eg to/from school
-encouraging active participation in physical education (PE) class and extra-curricular activities like sports day, athletics etc
-encouraging your child joining a local team or sport that they may enjoy
-organising activities on the weekends such as hill walking, swimming lessons etc.
Taking these steps will ensure your child is on the right path to achieving their recommended physical activity levels, maintaining a healthy weight and reducing risk of health complications. Regular physical activity has also been proven to increase attention, reduce depression and improve cognitive skills in children. So that exercise at the weekend might just help them in their schoolwork too!