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Kids & Exercise
Studies have indicated a direct correlation between hours of TV watched and a child's body fat. Combining proper exercise with a healthy diet is the key to a healthy lifestyle. By understanding what exercises burn fat and teaching your child how to exercise safely, you can instill fun and healthy habits that will last a lifetime. And if you embrace a healthier lifestyle yourself, you will be a positive role model for your family.
Kinds of Exercise
Aerobic exercise burns fat. Aerobic exercise involves increased breathing and elevated heart rate over an extended period of time. After about 20 minutes of aerobic exercise, the body needs to use its stored fat reserves as fuel. Aerobic exercise can be fun for both adults and children, and includes the following activities:
  • bicycling
  • swimming
  • soccer
  • skating / rollerblading
  • jogging & running
  • karate
  • basketball
  • hockey
  • rowing
  • tennis / squash / racquetball
  • walking (fast)
Anaerobic exercise involves short bursts of exertion followed by periods of rest. Bodies develop stronger muscles as the result of anaerobic exercise. Although anaerobic exercise does not burn fat, its muscle-building results complement aerobic exercise (and bigger muscles burn bigger calories). Examples of anaerobic exercise include push ups, stomach crunches, pull ups, and lifting weights.
How Exercise Burns Fat
The kind of exercise that reduces fat is called aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercises include walking, running, swimming, bicycling, and rollerblading. During aerobic exercise, the heart beats faster and breathing is heavier. The increased oxygen you breathe in combines with stored fat and literally burns the fat away. Regular aerobic exercise (20 minutes of exercise three or more times a week) also raises the body's metabolism; the body burns more calories all the time - even at rest!
How Much to Exercise
To improve health and burn fat, people should exercise 30 minutes or more at least three times a week. Most children usually have no problem accomplishing this since their activity levels tend to be higher than adults. But if your children, or perhaps your whole family, is overweight, they may need more exercise. This means aerobic exercise - faster heart rate, increased breathing, muscles working. Aerobic exercise is steady, moderate exercise, not all-out effort. Do not let your child or adolescent (or yourself) overdo it. A good rule is the talk/sing rule: if they are breathing too heavily to sing, but can still talk, the intensity is just about right.
Exercising Safely
Consult a health-care professional before beginning any exercise program. To prevent injury, teach your child to exercise safely. Stretching, both before and after exercising, increases flexibility and helps prevent injuries from muscle strain. Proper equipment also safeguards against injury - make sure your child (and you) always wears the appropriate equipment for the activity. Some examples include: goggles or other protective eye wear, helmets for bike safety, mouth guards, elbow and knee pads, groin protectors for boys, and sports bras for older girls.

Exercise should stop immediately if you or your child experiences any of the following symptoms:
  • pain
  • feeling dizzy or faint
  • nausea
  • severe fatigue
Kids & Sports
There is no question that exercise is good for growing children, and the earlier they start, the better. But is it advisable for 6-year-olds to play soccer? Should you encourage an uncoordinated child to take up gymnastics? It is important to remember that it is OK if children are not interested in certain sports as long as they pursue activities that help them stay physically fit. The key is finding activities they like to do, that are fun, and that get them moving! And do not overlook the other benefits your child will be receiving from exercise - including learning to share, making friends, and developing self-esteem.
What Parents Can Do
Try to concentrate on your child's successes, rather than his/her failures. Your child may not be able to swim well, but she may be a terrific at ballet and basketball. Praise what she does well and provide plenty of opportunities for her to succeed. Introduce new activities, especially if she shows interest. Try to attend your child's games and sports meets as much as possible to encourage him/her and provide support. Whenever possible, parents should participate in fitness activities with their children. When a family rides bicycles or hikes together, parents act as role models and everyone has fun and gets some exercise. What could be better?
Sports and Exercise for Ages 6 and Under
If a child does not want to do something or does not seem ready, it is best not to push too hard. Just because the child next door can ride his two-wheeler at age 5 does not mean your child should be able to do it too. Children develop skills at different ages. Try not to draw too many comparisons between your child and other children. As long as she is developmentally on target, let her master skills at her own pace. Some children shy away from sports because they are afraid of failure or easily frustrated. Again, you must look to your child for cues and you should provide encouragement, but never force an activity on an unwilling child. Wait 6 months and try again when the child feels more comfortable!

Some Suggested Activities for Ages 6 and Under
  • Gymnastics (tumbling)
  • Four square
  • Hopscotch
  • Playing Frisbee
  • Badminton
  • Jump/Skipping rope
  • Swimming
  • Karate
  • Tag
  • Kickball
  • Dancing
Sports and Exercise for Ages 7 and Up
Children should be at least age 7 or 8 before they engage in organized team sports, most experts say. It depends on the child, but many team sports are contact sports, and most children under age 7 are not ready for rough contact. For them, the risk of physical injury is not the only concern. There is also the issue of winning and losing. Emotionally, losing at sports can be very hard, even for adults. At this age, it is more important that children have the chance to play than worry about who won and who lost.

Most experts agree that between the ages of 8 and 12 is the time to introduce competitive sports. Competitive sports include soccer, field hockey, tennis, swimming, gymnastics, basketball, and netball, among others. Parents should be well informed about their child's chosen sport(s), including the proper protective gear to be worn and injury prevention techniques. Coaches can provide most of this information, but it is still a good idea for parents to know, so they can help kids perform well without getting hurt. Using free weights or weight training equipment is not recommended unless a child is following an age-appropriate program and is supervised by a qualified professional. Distance running should be postponed until adolescence. Even then, track programs for lower secondary students (From One to Three) usually limit running distances to 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile at a time. Age appropriateness for these activities varies depending upon the duration and intensity of the activity.

Some Suggested Activities for Ages 7 and Up
  • Biking
  • Kickball
  • Basketball / Netball
  • Field hockey
  • Soccer
  • Wrestling
  • Tennis/Table-tennis
  • Lacrosse
  • Inline skating
  • Dancing
  • Marching

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