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Encouraging Physical Activity for Children


Current Challenges in Children’s Fitness

Fitness levels among children worldwide have been on a decline, with a worrying increase in the number of overweight and obese children. For instance, in the UK, approximately one in three children aged 10 to 11 is classified as overweight or obese, according to the National Health Service (NHS).

Importance of Physical Activity

Developing Strong Bones and Muscles

Regular physical activity is crucial during childhood, a period when bones are developing and gaining strength. The NHS recommends that children and young people aged 5 to 18 engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day.

Overall Health Benefits

Regular exercise offers numerous health benefits beyond bone strength. It enhances cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, boosts muscle strength and flexibility, reduces stress, improves mental well-being, helps control weight, and promotes better sleep.

Effective Exercises for Children

Weight-Bearing Activities

Weight-bearing exercises are vital as they force bones and muscles to work against gravity, promoting bone strength. These include:

  • Walking and hiking
  • Running and jogging
  • Dancing
  • Jumping rope
  • Sports like tennis, badminton, and pickleball
  • Team sports such as football, basketball, and rugby
  • Climbing stairs

Strength-Training Activities

Strength training involves resistance exercises that build muscle mass and bone strength. These can include:

  • Using weight machines or free weights
  • Bodyweight exercises like push-ups
  • Exercises with resistance bands

Non-Impact Exercises

While non-impact exercises like yoga and tai chi are less effective in building bone density, they improve flexibility and balance. Swimming and cycling are excellent for cardiovascular health and overall fitness, especially for children with musculoskeletal conditions.

Initiating a Fitness Programme

Getting Started

Starting a fitness programme is often the hardest step but is essential for overall health. Gradual and steady progress is crucial. Begin with a variety of fun physical activities and include flexibility exercises to prevent injuries.

Activity Recommendations for Children

  • Aim for at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily, which can be broken into shorter sessions.
  • Keep an activity log to monitor progress.
  • Include a mix of team and individual sports, as well as fun activities like dancing, swimming, or playing on the playground.

Parental Tips for Promoting Exercise

Making Exercise Enjoyable

Encourage children to see physical activity as fun rather than a chore. Focus on enjoyment rather than competition. Join your children in physical activities such as bike rides, ball games, or long walks.

Incorporating Activity into Daily Routines

  • Use physical activity as a reward, such as a family outing to the park or pool.
  • Make exercise a part of daily routines, like walking the dog or doing household chores.
  • Schedule physical activities in 10- to 15-minute blocks throughout the day.
  • Choose toys and gifts that promote physical activity, like a jump rope, ball, or roller skates.


Promoting physical activity among children is essential for their long-term health and well-being. By integrating a variety of enjoyable activities into daily routines, children can build strong bones, improve overall health, and establish lifelong healthy habits. Parents play a crucial role in encouraging and participating in these activities, helping to ensure a healthy and active future for their children.

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