For many of us, our week is scheduled around our exercise routines. But what should we know about exercise and physical activity for our kids?
Fortunately, we have guidelines from national and international organizations to help steer us in the right direction. Ensuring your kids are getting plenty of physical activity is important to support health and the development of movement skills and cognitive function.
Use this list of 4 daily exercise habits to check if your kids are getting the right daily dose.
1. Be active 3+ hours
Each day your little one should get a total of 3+ hours of physical activity in accordance with the World Health Organization's guidance on movement behaviors for children under 5. Wow! 3 hours seems like a lot. But let's check in on what counts as physical activity.
Physical activity is often classified by intensity, with the levels of intensity being considered as low, moderate, and vigorous. Low intensity physical activity, or exercise, for children would include walking, light playground play (such as self-propelling a swing), or helping out with household chores. With moderate intensity exercise, breathing rates increase but not so much that one can't carry on a conversation. Moderate intensity exercise might include playing an outside game that involves some running or jumping (like hopscotch) or bike riding. Vigorous exercise comes with sweating and heavy breathing. You'll see kids doing vigorous exercise doing a rowdy game of tag with friends. And this usually means bath time is officially on the agenda!
When you total up all the different kinds of physical activity your little one accumulates throughout the course of the day, you might surprise yourself how much time they spend moving. Health experts have long been preaching the message that the accumulation of short bouts of activity throughout the day is similar in health benefits to a longer bout. For example, instead of trying to get 60 consecutive minutes of activity, you can break it up into 3 20 minute blocks of activity for the same benefit.
2. Make 60 min energetic
Great! Your kiddo gets in 3 hours of physical activity throughout the day. But there is one addition experts add to that first guideline - 1 hour of the 3 hours should be moderate to vigorous. So make sure to find those heart pumping, sweat producing activity.
From a science perspective, when we look at the adaptations that occur from exercise we see differences in adaptations based on the type of exercise. You may have noticed that a long distance runner usually looks different than a bodybuilder. They have very different training plans and their muscle development shows it.
We see something similar with the intensity of exercise, in that not all exercise intensities produce the same outcomes. With exercise intensity, you need to reach a sufficient threshold of challenge for the body to respond by producing a positive adaptation. In young children, experts have found that low and moderate intensity physical activity does not consistently associate to positive health indicators, where moderate and vigorous physical activity does.
So when you total up how much physical activity your little one is getting, also consider how much time is spent in moderate-vigorous type activities. Make sure there is some heart pumping, sweat producing fun during the day. This could be some backyard soccer or a family bike ride through the hilly part of the neighborhood.
3. Keep screen time under 1 hour
Sedentary screen time that is. Sedentary screen time has been linked to negative factors such as problematic behavior and increased rates of obesity in children. Which is why experts place specific guidelines to help families evaluate how much sedentary screen time their children are getting on a typical, ongoing basis. Cause, let's face it, the 5 hour car ride to great-grandma's house might warrant some extra screen time for that day.
As the evidence against too much sedentary screen time continues to amount, parents can look towards alternative options for activities kids can do in the house, like our exercise videos for kids - which are age and skill level appropriate and purpose built for movement learning, development, and fun!
4. Sleep 10-13 hours
Rest and recovery is an important tenant for athletes and non-athletes alike. In children, sufficient sleep is important for physical and mental health, learning, and behavior.
Establishing a solid bedtime routine in addition to the first 3 items on this list will support better quality and quantity of sleep for children. And, what about your sleep quality and quantity?? Sleep is likely way more important than you realize and has a direct relationship to how well we feel and function. Check out this podcast for some great learnings about sleep.
So there you have it - 4 daily habits that help support healthy kids.