Exercise is the activity of exerting muscles in different ways to stay healthy and fit. Review with your children that a muscle is a body part that expands and contracts, or lengthens and shortens, to allow movement. Have children identify and point to different muscles on their bodies, including the heart.
Exercise helps strengthen and build muscles. During aerobic exercise, the heart and lungs work harder and over time they become stronger. We recommend watching the Lungs movie together as a review. This maintains a healthy blood pressure, improves circulation, and boosts the immune system so that the body can fight off illnesses more easily. In addition, exercise builds stronger bones by increasing bone density so they are less likely to break. Exercise can also help relieve stress by releasing endorphins, which are natural chemicals that relax the body.
Your children probably exercise everyday without even knowing it. They may play sports, run around during a game of tag, jump rope, or play hopscotch or handball during recess or lunch. Any physical activity that increases the heart rate and makes you sweaty can be considered exercise. Encourage your children to think about how they exercise during the day how they can add exercise to their daily routines. They can take their dogs for a long walk, climb a few flights of stairs instead of taking an elevator, or ride their bikes to a friend’s house instead of driving. Inspire children to get off the couch and away from the T.V. or computer and exercise. Children learn by example, so the best way to help a reluctant child is to exercise and play with them!
Before exercising, children should “warm up” their muscles by doing some light physical activities such as taking a brisk walk, doing a few jumping jacks, or running in place. Then they should do some light stretches to help loosen their muscles and make them less prone to injuries. Make sure your children know not to “over stretch” or push themselves too far. After they exercise, children should cool down by walking and stretching until their heart rate goes back to normal. Children can take their pulse and pay attention to their breathing at different points in their routine to help understand aerobic exercise.
Remind your children that exercising safely is crucial. When they are playing a sport, they should wear all the appropriate safety gear, such as helmets, knee and elbow pads, wrist guards, and mouth guards. Protective helmets and pads should also be worn whenever children go bicycling, skating, skateboarding and the like. For children with asthma, remind them to keep their inhalers and spacers with them while exercising and pay attention to their breathing. They should also wear sunscreen if they plan on swimming or playing in the sun. Encourage your children to drink plenty of water (and not sugary sodas or juices) even when they are not thirsty. The body needs water to hydrate and function properly, especially during and after physical activities. Furthermore, they should limit their time in the sun by taking breaks in the shade or spending time outdoors when sunlight is less intense. Of course, your children should follow all the safety rules for playing a sport and always inform coaches, teachers, or instructors of any health issues with a written note.
Exercise is important for everyone. By encouraging regular exercise and explaining its benefits, your children can practice healthy habits at an early age and grow up to be strong, healthy adults. Encourage your children to create goals to maintain their physical fitness. Their goals should be realistic and incorporated into their daily routines.