The benefits of physical activity for children

For children and teens to grow up healthy, it’s important they are physically active and eat healthy foods every day.

To help children develop habits that will last a lifetime, an active, healthy lifestyle must start early in life. Physical activity has benefits at every age, and helps kids:

  • keep their heart and lungs strong and healthy,
  • become more flexible,
  • develop strong bones,
  • keep a healthy body weight,
  • lower the risk of several diseases and health problems,
  • improve their mood and self-esteem,
  • do better in school, and
  • feel better about their bodies.

“Sedentary behavior” means time spent doing very little physical activity, such as sitting at a computer, playing video games, or watching television. Children and teens should spend less time on these activities and more time being active.

How can I get my kids to be active?

Your child learns the most about healthy active living from you. Include the whole family in regular physical activity and healthy eating. It’s easier if families do things together as part of the daily routine.

  • Choose activities that suit your child’s age and stage of development.
  • Give your child or teen lots of time to be active in both structured activities, like organized sports, and unstructured activities, like playing in a playground.
  • Keep activities fun.

How can families support healthy active living?

  • Playing organized sports (such as being on a soccer or hockey team) isn’t enough to keep children and youth healthy. Encourage your child or teen to be active every day, by walking or cycling to a friend’s house, skipping rope, or playing in a neighborhood park or playground.
  • If you drive your children to school, try walking instead, or organize a walking club with neighbors.
  • Encourage your children to take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator.
  • Get your child involved in activities around the house: carrying the groceries, raking leaves, or shoveling snow.
  • Be sure activities are safe. Children and youth should wear protective equipment for activities like cycling, skating, skateboarding, soccer, and other physical activities.
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