Creating Good Physical Activity Habits Early
The American Heart Association recommends that children and adolescents get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity every day.
The American Heart Association recommends that children and adolescents get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity every day. But less than 30 percent of children meet that goal. Examples of moderate activity include bike riding, swimming and brisk walking. Vigorous activities include jogging, soccer, aerobics or dancing.
If you have preschoolers, you know that fun is their prime motivator. Walking around an exercise track might not be fun. But safely exploring the woods with an adult, investigating an ant hill or counting birds or tossing rocks into a creek – FUN!
Preschoolers are working on basic skills like hopping, balancing on one foot, throwing and catching, riding a tricycle and skipping. Learning these basic skills builds confidence and makes it more likely that they’ll continue to be physically active as they grow up.
Limit TV and computer time, so your tots will find more active stuff to do. One to two hours a day of quality programming is plenty.
Team sports, even those with simple rules, may be hard for a 4- or 5-year-old to understand. The average preschooler has not mastered throwing, catching and taking turns, all of which are necessary for organized sports. Kids don’t need a "head start" to be competitive when they’re older. But kids who learn the fundamentals and enjoy being active can catch on to sports when they’re a little older.
Here are some activities to try:
- Play games like "Duck, Duck, Goose" or "Follow the Leader." Mix it up with jumping, hopping and walking backward.
- Kick a ball back and forth or set up a goal they can kick into.
- Practice hitting a ball off a T-ball stand.
- Play freeze dance or freeze tag.
- Practice balancing by pretending to be statues.
Children love seeing their parents play. It also shows them that being active is normal for your family. Kids who enjoy physical activity tend to stay active throughout their lives, and that translates into better self-esteem and lower weight, which decreases the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.
This information is provided as a resource to our readers. The tips, products or resources listed have not been reviewed or endorsed by the American Heart Association.