There are so many important topics around health and fitness, it is hard to select which ones are most critical, but when we think of our children and how important their health is, it becomes pretty easy to recognize that our kid's health and fitness sits near the top of the list.
Over the years, there has been a mountain of research and solid evidence that physical activity in children is as equally important as their nutrition and education as they grow. Physical activity plays a long-term role in the development of young children and teens alike.
Being active and getting enough exercise is so critical in children that a lack of exercise during childhood can lead to a number of chronic health problems in their adult years. One good example of this came from a study that found low bone density in adults has been linked to a lack of bone development during childhood. A number of studies suggest that proper exercise along with good nutrition starting in childhood and continued into adulthood has a direct connection to reduced instances of chronic inflammation, weight gain and metabolic disorders.
When children and adults get moderate physical activity each day, their muscular systems will produce and release anti-inflammatory substances into their blood. As children put stress on their body through physical activity, they stimulate the production of what is called ROS, or reactive oxygen species. What science and research has found is ROS interacts with various hormones, helping balance and limit the amount of the inflammation in the body. The reduction of inflammation in young bodies influences their development and overall health in a positive way. The simple act of children staying active, using their muscles for movement and lifting is a very effective way to keep inflammation in check as they grow.
Building the foundation of regular exercise with your children should begin fairly young. Whether it's youth soccer, running or just a daily hour of fun, active behavior will make a difference. Once your kids reach the age of 7 or 8, kick it up a bit with some sort of basic weight lifting activity to promote bone growth and muscle development. Keep in mind that kids get the same boost to their energy, stress reduction and better sleep that adults do who exercise regularly.
A lack of exercise and poor nutrition contribute directly to the development of inflammation, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Once obesity and metabolic disorders start in children, it can follow your children as they age. Building health now builds health for the future, which is a very good reason to ensure your children get plenty of physical activity and eat correctly.
More and more information is indicating that sedentary children are adversely affected by inflammation as they develop. Recent research is finding that exercise not only plays a positive role in mitigating the adverse effects of stress and weak immune systems, but also helps manage inflammatory responses in children. In the last 20 years, a growing epidemic of childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome has really put a spotlight on the consequences of inactivity coupled with poor nutrition.
So why is inflammation so important to address? Inflammation is an immune and healing response. Our bodies have built-in systems to help address inflammation as it occurs and physical activity is one of the mechanisms our body uses to flush out inflammatory problems. When inflammation occurs, it is usually the body's first response that there is some sort of health problem. If inflammation persists over a long period of time, it amplifies, indicating the increasing severity of a condition or disease.
A few common health issues in children that point back to inflammation are allergies, asthma, digestive disorder such as IBS and eczema. Many of these conditions are considered autoimmune in nature and also link back to poor nutrition.
Keeping your kids physically active starting from the age of 5 years old and up is far more important than most parents realize. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and here are their fitness recommendations for children and adolescents from ages 6 to 17: A total of 60 minutes or more of daily physical activity was recommended. The guidelines state that the activity should either consist of moderate to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity and should include vigorous-intensity physical or strength building activity at least three days per week.
For younger children, strength-building activity may include using playground equipment, climbing, or playing jump rope. For tweens, there are some great types of activity including lifting relatively heavy objects or using body weight for resistance such as push-ups or gymnastics. For older teens, weight training, interval training and other more aggressive types of workout regimens are recommended.
Stay on top of your children's physical wellness by ensuring they have annual health check-ups or physicals so your doctor can advise you of any concerns he or she may have regarding your physical condition. Most schools require a youth physical before the child can start their first practice.
Also keep in mind the importance of resistance and strength training in children. Parents have long been told that younger kids should not strength train. I get asked often “Can a child damage growth plates by performing resistance or strength training?” The simple answer is no. A number of studies have been done and concluded there is no defining present data nor scientific evidence that explicitly supports that children who strength train in moderation damage growth plates. Common sense is key and resistance and strength training should be at a level that matches their ability.
In fact, one study showed that exercise increased their bone mineral density by about 6.2 percent compared to about 1.4 percent for those who did not strength train. It does make sense that if strength training is safe and effective for the frail elderly, you would think it would be pretty healthy for children who have full joint movement and an abundance of energy. Resistance training is another activity that helps the body manage inflammation and build a stronger muscular and skeletal system that will have lifelong healthy benefits.
When it comes to our children, always remember that with any sport or exercise activity, moderation and common sense is the key to great results. Don't push your child too hard or let them exceed their limits. The net result will be a happy and healthy child.
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A recognized health and wellness presenter, fitness trainer and now primal health coach in the Inland Northwest. Now in his eighth year of bringing health and wellness through his writing, teaching and coaching, Judd delivers his well-rounded message of mindfulness, nutrition and fitness to readers and clients alike.