Sources Of Exercise
Children get exercise from their play activities. Children who are highly active typically do not carry excess weight. While this regular activity is rarely long enough or intense enough to provide other immediate health benefits, active children tend to become active adults, and active adults are generally healthier than sedentary adults.
School physical education (PE) programs tend to be the primary source of exercise for children. PE programs provide opportunities for activity and to teach children about the principles of exercise. The limited time allotted for PE programs in most schools provides little benefit to children's health. Children typically spend two to four hours a week in PE programs. This is not enough time to adequately cover physical health education as well as give children time to exercise in class to improve their own fitness levels.
Athletic programs tend to provide children with the most exercise, but of a limited nature. Each sport has different demands and exercises the body in specific ways. For example, football is good for developing motor skills and strength but does very little for aerobic fitness. Swimming, on the other hand, is very good for aerobic fitness but can hinder flexibility. Children should be encouraged to take part in a variety of complementary sports in order to increase all areas of fitness.
Community programs provided by local recreation departments, YMCAs, or Boys and Girls Clubs exist in many areas. These programs are often not as strenuous as athletic programs but provide more time for improving children's fitness.
Exercise affects not only motor and physical fitness but also such developmental areas as cognitive ability, social development, and self-esteem. These benefits should also be considered when involving children in exercise activities.
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