By Heidi Streeter, PT, DPT
Do kids get enough exercise these days?
It's very likely that kids today are not getting enough exercise. With the rapid growth and popularity of technology and social media, our kids spend far less time moving their bodies and far more time zoned in on their electronic devices. The issue with too much time on their electric devices is that it creates poor postural adaptations and compensations that are difficult to reverse. Repeated hand use has also led to a rise in “gamer’s thumb” in the younger population.
Exercise helps kids grow strong, healthy bones and muscles. It helps them burn the calories they eat, which prevents fatty tissue buildup. It also helps prevent injury by fostering proper growth and good body mechanics. Kids are born with pristine body mechanics. Watching a toddler squat is mechanically perfect. This is because they don’t have any learned patterns or compensations. Their body has not had time or exposure to prolonged posturing or repeated motions like some of us adults, which can alter our mechanics for some tasks.
What should physical activity look like and how much?
Sixty minutes is a great goal for kids to set for daily physical activity. The nice thing is that physical activity can really be anything from exploring on a hike to bike riding to playing on a playground. Playing a sport, dancing — the options are endless — as long as they are moving their bodies, using their muscles and getting their heart rate elevated. In addition, the 60 minutes can be a collective total throughout the day. It doesn't have to be done all at once.
Why is physical fitness so important for adults?
Fitness is just as important for adults to help keep our bodies running in good condition. Exercise helps increase muscle tone and function which leads to increased calories burned. Ground impact from walking or running can help build stronger bones to prevent osteoporosis. Exercise releases the “feel good” hormones that help fight depression and decrease stress. As adults we should always set good examples for our kids. They watch and mimic everything we do and they will take the habits they create now with them into their adulthood.