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Advice for Patients
September 2010

Exercise

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2010;164(9):888. doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2010.164

Exercise and physical activity are an essential part of childhood and adolescence. These activities keep your child healthy both physically and mentally.

BENEFITS OF EXERCISE

  • Control of weight.

  • Stronger bones and joints.

  • Greater muscle strength.

  • Improved flexibility.

  • More energy.

  • Better self-confidence.

  • Better concentration at school.

  • Better ability to handle stress.

WHAT ACTIVITIES COUNT AS EXERCISE?

Anything that gets your child's body moving can count as exercise. This includes playing outside in the yard, chasing a sibling around the house, and even helping with household chores such as raking leaves or washing the car. An important part of exercise during childhood and adolescence is finding activities that your child or adolescent enjoys and will want to keep doing. This may include sports but also can include dance classes or yoga. Parents can encourage their children to use physical activity to get them places whenever possible, such as walking or biking to a friend's house or school.

HOW MUCH EXERCISE IS ENOUGH?

Children and adolescents should do 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of physical activity each day. As a parent, you can help teach your child healthy attitudes and behaviors toward exercise every day. Here are ways to help your child be active:

  • Make physical activity part of the family routine. Examples include taking family walks in the evenings or playing active games together. Younger children may like to run and chase or play tag, while older children and teens may enjoy practicing throwing or kicking balls in the yard or a park.

  • Give your child equipment that encourages physical activity. Always provide protective equipment such as helmets, wrist pads, or knee pads.

  • If your child says “I’m bored!” this is an opportunity to give your child options for physical activity: “Would you like to take a walk with me or ride your bike to the park?”

  • Put limits on activities that involve long periods of sitting still (watching television, surfing the Internet). Instead of watching television in the evenings, encourage your child to do something that involves physical activity.

IF MY CHILD IS ALREADY OVERWEIGHT, SHOULD HE OR SHE EXERCISE?

If your child is already overweight or obese, it is even more important to help him or her begin exercising. Your child may need to start with small amounts of exercise at first and gradually increase the time each week. Even if you do not see immediate changes in weight, exercising still has many beneficial health effects including lowering blood pressure, improving energy, and building confidence.

An article in this month's Archives showed that overweight children who exercised had better heart function than overweight children who did not exercise.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/getactive/children.html

INFORM YOURSELF

To find this and other Advice for Patients articles, go to the Advice for Patients link on the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine Web site at http://www.archpediatrics.com.

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Article Information

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics, http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/obesity/Pages/default.aspx.

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The Advice for Patients feature is a public service of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For specific information concerning your child's medical condition, Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine suggests that you consult your child's physician. This page may be photocopied noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share with patients. To purchase bulk reprints, call 312/464-0776.

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