Exercise: Kids Go for It
Theodore Ganley, MD, with Carl Sherman
Exercise Is Medicine series editor: Nicholas A. DiNubile, MD.
THE PHYSICIAN AND SPORTSMEDICINE - VOL 28 - NO. 2 - FEBRUARY 2000
Exercise is good for everybody. For kids, it pays double: increasing vitality today while building the foundation for a healthy tomorrow. Active youngsters are stronger, leaner, and more fit. They have extra energy and feel better about themselves. They get a head start on lifestyle habits that will protect against heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
There's no better investment in your child's present and future health than promoting safe, regular exercise.
Q. What exercise is best?
A. Children and adolescents, like adults, should participate in vigorous physical activity on a regular basis—at least a half hour, three or four times a week.
The best kind of exercise is one your child will do regularly. Help him or her find activities that are fun and rewarding. Baseball, walking, soccer, jumping rope—anything's OK if it's enjoyable and done safely.
Preaching or pushing kids into activities they don't like is likely to backfire. Youngsters who learn that exercise is a chore all too often become inactive adults.
Remember, too, that exercise needn't be organized. Encourage your child to take the active option in daily life: Walk instead of ride, take the stairs, not the elevator, develop an interest in hands-on activities like building a snowman. Short bursts of activity add up.
Q. What about safety?
A. Minor mishaps such as bruises and sprains are a fact of life for on-the-go youngsters, but simple precautions will minimize the risk of serious injury.
Q. Is it good to get the whole family involved?
A. Kids learn by example: When a father gets involved with his child's activity, the child is three times more active than children with inactive parents. Why not foster fitness together? Make long walks, cycling, and active vacations a family tradition.
Remember: This information is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. Before starting an exercise program, consult a physician.
Dr Ganley is orthopedic director of sports medicine at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Mr Sherman is a freelance writer in New York City.