It is important for children to engage in physical activity to encourage their physical development. All physical activities help children to develop their motor skills, but some activities also help children to develop mental skills as well.
Different physical activities also help children to develop certain areas of their bodies. Your child’s paediatrician may actually suggest certain types of exercise if they want to encourage improved development in areas where the existing development has started to slow.
Guidelines for Physical Activities in Children
The recommended amount of physical activity for children differs depending on how old they are. Babies are encouraged to move through play when they are not asleep. These movements encourage muscles and joints to develop. Infants should also be given “tummy time” where they are allowed to reach and move about whilst on their stomach. This helps to prevent their range of movements from becoming restricted.
Once they are able to walk more confidently, toddlers require at least 180 minutes of physical activity per day, and more vigorous activities are encouraged, especially if they have been forced to remain sedentary at any point during the day. Changes in movement from moderate to vigorous exercises are best for physical development.
Children who are over the age of 5 only require 60 minutes of physical activity per day, which should range from moderate to vigorous. There should be a fairly even balance between moderate and vigorous activities to continue to develop muscle growth and coordination. It is important that children spend at least 90 minutes per week (three 30 minute sessions) doing exercises that specifically build strong muscles and strong bones.
Building Muscle Strength
Building muscle strength is important, because muscles control movement and affect coordination.
Muscle strength is necessary for general daily activities and helps to reduce weakness and fatigue. Muscle strengthening activities are activities which generally require children to work against a stronger form of resistance. Doing a mixture of muscle strengthening activities will help them to build a range of different muscle groups.
Many activities that are specifically enjoyed by children include a muscle building aspect, and therefore children may not need to set out to specifically perform muscle strengthening activities. These activities include pastimes like; swinging on the monkey bars in the park, climbing trees, completing assault courses, and engaging in games like tug of war. Children’s football, rugby and tennis also help children to build muscle.
Older children may need to set out to specifically do muscle-strengthening activities by carefully choosing sports that build different muscle groups. Options that could appeal to older children may include; sit-ups, press-ups, resistance training (weights, exercise bands), rock climbing, basketball, and gymnastics.
Bone-strengthening activities are designed to promote bone growth and strength. This is important for children whilst they are still growing, because it encourages healthy bone growth. It also reduces the risks associated with weak bones, including breaks and sprains.
Bone-strengthening activities also require children to work against resistance or work to lift their own body weight. Most playground equipment and non-static toys (tricycles etc) encourage bone strengthening through increased movement. Climbing frames are particularly useful. Skipping with a rope is an excellent choice, because it involves bone strengthening activities in both the arms (turning the rope) and the legs (jumping over the rope). Other playground games like hopscotch are also encouraged, because they build coordination as well as bone strength.
Gymnastics, dance and martial arts are all good choices for people who are looking for bone strengthening activities. This is because they encourage controlled movements against resistance and use the whole body.
Older children may find that they would prefer to be involved in organised team sports. There are plenty of choices for those who are looking for sports that build bone strength, including; rugby, netball, hockey and football.
Those participating in contact sports should listen carefully to the instruction of their coaches so that they know how to minimise the risk of injury. If your child has suffered an injury because of negligence all reputable sports clubs should be covered by their insurance company if a personal injury claim is started against them. Alternatively, they can try non-contact variants of these sports, such as Tag Rugby.
For those who prefer to exercise alone, weight training is a possibility. Weight training is normally only recommended for young adults who are over the age of 15.
Before your child engages in any weight training, they must complete an induction at the gym, so that they will understand how to use the weights safely. Incorrect usage of weight equipment can be dangerous and may put unnatural strain onto the body. This can do more harm than good.
Most gyms will advise that weights over a certain mass should not be used without a spotter. A spotter is a person who is on-hand to help the lifter if they were to get into any trouble with the weights that they are using. Some gyms also put weight restrictions onto young adults.