Why Physical Activity Counts


Remember, if you embrace a healthy lifestyle yourself, you will become a healthy role model for your child.

May is Physical Fitness Month and a good time to understand the importance of being physically active. To start, it is a good idea to be aware that the percentage of overweight and obese kids and teens has more than doubled in the past 30 years. Although many factors contribute to this epidemic, children are becoming more sedentary. Our children are simply sitting around a lot more than they used to.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, eight- to 18-year-olds watch about 4.5 hours of television a day. The average kid spends seven hours on all screen media combined. This includes TV, videos, and DVDs, computer time outside of schoolwork, and video games. These are passive activities that not only keep your child sedentary, but they also do not incite imagination or creativity.

Let me begin by stating that getting fit does not mean you have to spend hours in the gym. People can get in shape by performing everyday activities in the home. Every time you and your child dance, throw a ball, swim a lap, climb a flight of stairs, walk to school or the store, both your health and fitness levels are benefiting and improving.

When you are physically fit, you know that you feel better, and are healthier. You are the best example and the most influential person in your child’s life, which makes you the best role model for staying healthy by demonstrating healthy eating and exercise behaviors. Exercise helps people of all ages and the earlier a child starts healthy habits around physical activity, the more they reduce the risk of acquiring many diseases in both childhood and as an adult. You know what exercise can do for you. Here are some of the benefits that physical activity offers your child as well:

If you begin to limit the amount of time you or your child spends in sedentary activities, especially watching TV or playing video games, it will help motivate him (or yourself) to move. Parents should make sure that their kids get enough exercise. So, how much is enough? Kids and teens get 60 minutes or more of physical activity daily.

When you concentrate on keeping your family healthy, you will benefit too. It can take the form of dancing, walking or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Having your kids join organized activities that make exercise fun is also something you can do for them. Remember, if you embrace a healthy lifestyle yourself, you will become a healthy
role model for your child. It is true that the family that plays together stays together and, in this scenario, your family becomes healthy and happy as well as connected.

References: www.kidshealth.com •
Barbara Mintz, MS, RD, Vice President of Healthy Living and Community Engagement for Barnabas Health, New Jersey.


Exercise strengthens the cardiovascular system. The heart is a muscle. Like other muscles, its performance improves when it’s regularly challenged by exercise. The heart responds to exercise by becoming stronger and more efficient.
Strengthening the heart muscle can help ward off heart disease — the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — even in early childhood.

Activity helps keep cholesterol at a healthy level. Exercise will help lower the LDL or “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride levels in your blood. This type of cholesterol can clog your arteries and cause heart disease, even in children.

Activity strengthens the lungs and breathing capacity. Exercising and activity increase lung capacity, and efficiency in moving air in and out of the body. As a result, more oxygen is drawn into the body and more carbon dioxide and other waste gases are expelled. Regular exercise helps prevent the decline in oxygen intake that occurs naturally with
age or as a result of inactivity.

Exercise helps control blood pressure. It increases the flexibility of the walls of blood vessels, and helps to lower blood pressure. This can reduce the risk for heart attack and stroke. Exercise has also been shown to reduce stress
levels which can raise blood pressure. As the levels of stress in adults and children are lowered, blood pressure and risk for heart disease decline in addition to helping one keep centered, focused and happy.

Exercise reduces blood sugar levels. Exercise prevents sugar from accumulating in the blood. It does this by helping to facilitate our muscles to take up more glucose for energy storage. This can reduce a person’s risk of developing
diabetes. If someone has diabetes, exercise can help control it. Being active helps keep our body weight at an ideal level.

Keeping our weight at a healthy level is beneficial for anyone. It is particularly good for those with diabetes and heart disease. It is well known that exercise helps prevent obesity, especially in young children. It is a part of that important balance of energy in and energy out. If we burn more calories that we consume, then we will experience weight loss. If we consume more that we burn off we will gain. The key is finding a balance between our consumption
of energy and expending it. Finding that balance is key to every one’s health.

Exercise improves energy levels. Regular exercise often makes people feel more energetic, allows them to be more active, and reduces the likelihood that they’ll tire during the day. It also helps both adults and children sleep better, which helps them wake refreshed and ready to tackle the day ahead.

Exercise strengthens bones. Just as muscles grow stronger when one is physically stressed, bones also respond by getting stronger. Exercise increases bone density, which helps prevent osteoporosis, Children develop bone mass until they are 24 years old. Activity, together with a healthy diet that contains the appropriate level of calcium and
vitamin D, can be very important for bone health as they age.

Activity can help prevent cancer. People who exercise regularly have lower incidences of cancer. The cancers most affected include colon, prostate, uterine, and breast cancers. This is important for adults as aging can make us more prone to certain cancers.

Activity enhances emotional well-being. Most people report that they feel calm and have a sense of wellbeing after they exercise. This is because exercise releases endorphins, a natural substance in the body that helps keep you happy and relaxed. Some of the literature states that it is also the release of serotonin that causes the exercise
high. This is because increased levels of serotonin in the central nervous system are associated with feelings of well-being, heightening of appetite, and lessening of mental depression. Exercise can also help people to feel better about themselves. It can be meditative, because activity forces us to connect our mind and our body without distraction. You are concentrating on how your body is performing an exercise or activity, which can help keep you focused.




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