Exercise And Fitness
Children seem to have an endless supply of energy. They are often highly active and are almost constantly playing. Play is any spontaneous activity used for the child's amusement. Exercise is more planned and structured. The allure of amusement for children can be a motivating tool to direct children's activities for the purpose of exercise.
Exercise is used for the development of fitness, which comes in two primary forms, motor fitness and physical fitness. Motor fitness includes balance, coordination, motion, and speed and is developed in the first few years of a child's life through play exercises. Physical fitness includes aerobic fitness, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and body composition. Physical fitness can be addressed in children as young as five years of age and continues to affect health through adulthood.
Aerobic fitness involves the efficiency of the heart and lungs. An exercise program that consists of continuous activity for twenty to thirty minutes four to six times a week produces an improvement in aerobic fitness. Any improvement in aerobic fitness leads to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and a measurable decrease in stress. Children with high levels of aerobic fitness grow up to be healthier adults.
Muscle strength and endurance measure how strong muscles are and how long they are able to do work. Children improve muscle strength and endurance when they exercise. A typical program would have various exercises for each area of the body. Each exercise is usually repeated eight to ten times. The benefits of increased strength and endurance include more efficient muscles and a decreased risk of injuries. By strengthening muscles around joints, joints become stronger, thus avoiding many hyperflexibility injuries.
Flexibility is the range of motion in joints. The range of motion a joint has is determined by the tightness of muscles and other connective tissue surrounding a joint. Joints can have too much range of motion (known as hyperflexibility), or they can have a limited range of motion. Stretching should be done regularly to prevent overtightness. Each stretching exercise, such as touching one's toes, should be held for at least thirty seconds without bouncing. This should be done three times for each exercise.
Body composition is a major area of concern in physical fitness. Studies have shown that children are getting fatter. The body mass index (BMI) is a weight-to-height comparison (weight divided by height squared). Children who are above the 85th percentile on the BMI are considered overweight. Studies have shown that overweight children tend to remain over-weight as adults. Early intervention appears to be the key to maintaining normal weight throughout life. Children are able to lose excess weight by combining an intense exercise program with dietary monitoring and counseling. For these children, normal weight can be maintained into adulthood only if these exercise and eating habits become a permanent lifestyle change.