Why Should Children Exercise?
This is Part 2 of a 2 part blog series on the Importance of Physical Activity for Children. If you’d like, check out Part 1 here.
- What are the effects of physical inactivity in children?
KYM: As we’ve learned, the “mind + body” connection is the secret sauce to physical literacy. So, what happens when a sedentary lifestyle takes over? Just like muscles grow with activity, the opposite is also true. They shrink without it. Being less active means kids’ mental muscles become less stimulated and fewer neural connections are made in the brain.
Without movement and play, cognitive development is impeded because the neural pathways lack development. When the necessary motor development and sensory stimulation is lacking, younger students are challenged by low self-esteem, have poor spatial and body awareness and struggle with coordination. In the elementary school years, reading and writing skills are often harder to master.
The dire physical effects of a sedentary lifestyle can range from issues like unhealthy bodyweight to childhood obesity and the complications that can come next. Preventable medical conditions like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and blood sugar, circulatory problems and type 2 diabetes should not be prevalent in our kids’ juvenile years.
- How much exercise is enough for children? Is there such a thing as too much?
a) CSEP (Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology) in “The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years as well as for Children and Youth” outlines the amount of age-appropriate physical and sedentary activity, as well as screen time. They also provide some videos explaining what a healthy 24-hour period should look like according to ages and stages.
You can view these guidelines here: https://csepguidelines.ca
b) Yes, it is possible for children to get too much of a good thing. But generally speaking, our kids are not getting nearly enough exercise. So, for this reason, most parents don’t worry about overload.
However, for kids who do play multiple sports, bouncing from playtime to team time, watch for signs indicating that they’re burnt out or injured. Cues like irritability, constant sore muscles, loss of interest, appetite and changes in sleep signal a red flag. Kids’ bodies are still growing and growth plates are still active. Joints are not solid yet and muscle adaptation is still occurring. Overtraining can lead to overuse injuries, causing damage to a still-growing body. If you suspect this might be the case, take a break and seek professional medical counsel and balance. Kids need to enjoy their physical outlets and train appropriately for their age and ability.
7. What are Kids & Company’s policies on physical activity?
JENNIFER: At Kids & Company, we go by licensing rules which requires a minimum of 2 hours/day outside. We implement Munchkinetics, our physical activity program, and encourage teachers to do outdoor program planning to create engagement by both the children and the educators. When the weather does not allow for outdoor play, we ensure that indoor gross motor activity is included in the day to day activity.
8. As mentioned, Kids & Company incorporates Muchkinetics into our daily physical activity programming. Can you please explain what Munchkinetics is, and provide any important information about the program?
KYM: Munchkinetics is a preschool active living program designed for 3 to 5-year-olds to play with a purpose. Four 15-minute sessions per day are integrated into the existing unstructured free movement time currently offered at Kids & Company daycare centres.
Munchkinetics is neural based, focused on the use of perceptual-motor skills requiring preschoolers to use their mind and muscles together for active, play-based learning and fun.
The program enables the younger set to develop healthy brains, encouraging their neural pathways to expand and thrive through intentional, planned physical activities.
This makes learning easier because a child with more neural pathways grasps concepts more proficiently. The program also supports the growth of healthy young bodies, improves coordination, spatial awareness, self-control and lays the foundation for academic readiness.
Fundamental movement patterns are addressed through the FITT principle (Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type). Multiple movement choices include locomotor, object control, balance, spatial awareness and tracking. The activities are sorted according to bilateral, unilateral, cross-lateral and multilateral disciplines.
9. How can we help children develop and sustain motivation, mentally, in order to lead to a positive behaviour change?
JENNIFER: Children learn everything through play, whether it be socially, cognitively, reading, writing, etc. Physical activity is no different. They find it fun to run, play, chase and engage in these activities that they are participating in. If we focus on this fun aspect, they are more likely to want to continue doing something, just as you or I would. If games are created for self-motivation, it doesn’t seem like such a daunting task or activity.
JACKIE: At Kids & Company, we know that children are all very different and we foster their individual uniqueness by providing opportunities to participate in activities where children are able to be successful, as well as feel challenged. Children tend to be motivated when their interests are fostered and there are lots of opportunities to be active and develop fundamental skills. This is especially true when the activities are developmentally appropriate, the challenge is attainable and when the goal is to have fun.
10. What tips can you give families when it comes to raising fit and healthy kids?
- Have the end goal in sight and work backwards. Intentionally weave opportunities for movement into your child’s day. Encourage outdoor play appropriate for their age and skill level.
- Tag, Simon Says, I Spy, hopscotch, skipping, Double Dutch, basketball – have these toys available for use.
- Send a positive message by setting a positive example. “Positive anything is better than negative nothing.” Elbert Hubbard.
- Be active, laugh and enjoy your playtime together as a family.
- Be open to trying different activities to find what really works for your children and support their desire to switch things up when/if necessary.
- Remember if they really don’t like the activity, it’s not set in stone.
- Make the time to make physical activity a priority. On the overall scale of adolescence, it’s such a small, but key, window in their well-being and development over the long haul.
- Limit screen time. Walk to school. Lead by example.
- Suggest ping pong, mini-sticks or other active indoor alternatives.
- Seek out convenient, community-based playgrounds for seasonal activities: water parks, pools, nature parks and trails for bike riding, walking the dog, hiking, soccer, T-Ball, skiing, snowshoeing, recreation centres for ice rinks, build snowmen and snow angels.
- Intentionally park the car further from the final destination. Explain why.
- Take the stairs.
- Set healthy food choice examples at the dinner table and make a healthy, home-cooked meal together.
- Explain the 80/20 rule of 80% good food choices, 20% a little more leeway.
- Explain the end result of why taking care of your body now will be more likely to result in better health later. Show them the differences.
- Teach your children how to read nutrition labels and what to look for in unhealthy sugar, sodium and trans-fat quantities.
- Be a role model for your child(ren) and lead by example
- Have fun!!!
- Eat Healthily
- Plan Ahead
- Provide materials for your children that align with physical activity and are developmentally appropriate
- Play with your child(ren)
- Set Boundaries and Rules
JENNIFER: Look for new ideas and try them out as a family.
All in all, it starts with being motivated as an adult or parent. Once the adults are motivated, it makes it far easier to be able to set up your child(ren) every day for success!
ABOUT OUR CONTRIBUTORS:
Kym Grippo: Kym Grippo's positive approach to solving tough problems has changed the way companies view physical activity and the impact it has on their productivity and satisfaction as a result. As the Founder of LifeSports, Kym specializes in bringing health and wellness business’ to life through video. With the personal motto 'Changing the way the world plays every day,' this high-energy professional has embraced her background in television, media production and fitness to help active living brands get great results. Mom to two boys, in her spare time this New Balance Ambassador loves travelling and spending time with her family.
Jennifer Comber: Jennifer Comber has been on the Kids & Company team since 2005. She started off working in an infant room and has grown into our Director of Administration! Jennifer resides in Whitby with her husband and four children.
Jackie Winters: Jacqueline (Jackie) Winters is the Area Director for the Edmonton Area centres. She holds a Bachelor of Education with a minor in special needs. Jackie has a large, beautiful family with five children who like to travel and go for long walks. If she is able to find a bit of quiet time for herself you can likely find her scrapbooking.