Play vs Exercise: Encouraging Children to be Healthy & Fit!

Play vs Exercise: Encouraging Children to be Healthy & Fit!

When most adults think about exercise, their minds immediately jump to ‘working out’ – hitting the gym, running on a treadmill or swimming laps. Many people therefore believe that planned exercise is not suitable for children, when really, exercise is “any activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness.” For kids, exercise can be exciting, a chance to play and have fun. In this article, we’ll explain why exercise for children is so important and give examples of fun fitness activities for kids.

The Many Benefits of Exercise

Studies consistently show that exercise has incredible health benefits, and exercise early on in a person’s life can set up healthy patterns for physical health in the future. Not only does regular exercise help ward against lifelong chronic diseases like diabetes and blood pressure, it can help lower blood pressure and boost metabolism.

For kids, the benefits of play are a little more simple: it’s fun! ! With regular outdoor fitness activities, kids will develop confidence in their physical abilities - not to mention increased coordination and strong bones. Outdoor play is also a great way to nurture teamwork and social skills. Team sports where kids work together build camaraderie. 

The Three Elements of Fitness

Workouts for kids don’t need to be strenuous. There are lots of simple ways to encourage kids to become more active - just include a heavy dose of fun.

1. Endurance

Kids naturally have boundless energy, and luckily, there are lots of endurance games that are perfect for letting kids release this energy in a way that improves their fitness. Endurance games typically involve lots of running and are designed to improve aerobic fitness, strengthening the heart and lungs.

Tag or 44-home (a mix of hide-and-seek and tag) are perfect examples of fitness activities for kids that encourage cardio and endurance, while offering lots of laughter and enjoyment. For older kids, think water fights, swimming, dancing or even Red Rover. Sports like soccer and netball also help build teamwork skills at the same time. The aim here is to get the body moving constantly for at least 45 minutes to an hour each day.

2. Strength

Exercises that involve strength can help kids develop healthy muscles, joints and bones. Swinging, climbing nets and rope ladders, doing push ups and racing across monkey bars are fun ways to improve strength on the playground. Artistic gymnastics is another activity that’s perfect for building strength in the body

3. Flexibility

To help kids embrace fitness, encourage them to take up fun and easy activities that will improve their flexibility, like rhythmic gymnastics. Not only will this help improve their coordination and flexibility, they’ll pick up a fun new hobby too!

If your child is a natural climber, consider rock climbing or climbing nets and structures. The feeling of triumph when you scale new heights and reach the top can be thrilling.

Looking for fitness activities to build flexibility in a toddler or preschooler? Even reaching for high shelves or tying shoelaces are easy ways to build flexibility!