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Paediatr Child Health. 1998 Sep-Oct; 3(5): 343.
PMCID: PMC2851371

Safe exercise for children and adolescents

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF EXERCISE FOR CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS?

Regular moderate to vigorous physical activity is essential to preventing illness and maintaining health. It contributes to increased bone density, healthy body composition, improved posture and reduced injury occurrence. Regular physical activity can also contribute to improved self-concept, greater mental discipline, enhanced social skills, improved lifestyle attitudes and better performance in school. Physical activity habits that children pick up in childhood can carry over to adulthood.

DO CHILDREN GET ENOUGH EXERCISE?

Children spend increasing amounts of time engaged in sedentary activities such as using computers, playing video games and watching television. Many children do not exercise enough and are, therefore, not reaping the health benefits associated with physical activity.

WHAT TYPE OF ACTIVITY IS RECOMMENDED?

Involvement in physical activity may take the form of physical education classes, organized sporting events, recreational community exercise programs, and individual and family physical activity.

IS COMPETITION IN SPORT APPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN?

Many parents are concerned that competitive sport may create unhealthy stress for children. Each child should be evaluated by a physician to assess his or her readiness for competition. Generally, in the earlier years of childhood, participation should be recreational, and the primary goals should be skill acquisition, socialization and physical development. Some children may be ready for intense competition by age eight or nine years, while others may not be ready until age 12 or 13 years.

IS STRENGTH TRAINING SAFE FOR CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS?

Strength training is a key component of sports conditioning aimed at preventing potential injuries and increasing skill and ability. Strength training should always be integrated into a full fitness regimen including aerobic and stretching exercises. Supervised strength training is safe for children and adolescents. The key to safe strength training lies in the proper exercise technique, proper progression of weights and safe equipment. Supervision is a vital component. The majority of injuries associated with strength training can be prevented when the conditioning techniques, equipment and rate of exercise progression are closely supervised and tailored to the child’s growth and development.

WHAT CAN PARENTS AND CAREGIVERS DO TO HELP CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS?

Parents and caregivers play an important role in encouraging a child to exercise. They should positively reinforce the child’s participation in physical activities. Along with coaches and teachers, they can help the child to monitor whether an activity’s goals are being met. They can also ensure that the child is receiving adequate supervision in his or her physical activities. Finally, parents and caregivers can serve as positive role models by participating in regular physical activity, ideally with the child.

Footnotes

Prepared by Jennifer Kitts, Associate Editor, Paediatrics & Child Health, based on an article by Julia MK Alleyne (Paediatr Child Health 1998;3[5]:337–342). This information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your physician. There may be variations in treatment that your physician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

This information may be reproduced without permission and shared with patients and their families.


Articles from Paediatrics & Child Health are provided here courtesy of Pulsus Group