The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently issued the second edition of its Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, providing science-based guidance to help people ages 3 years and older improve their health through participation in regular physical activity.
For the child development professionals at The Little Gym of Litchfield Park, the report’s key guidelines for preschoolers, children and adolescents reaffirmed the premise underlying all of the programs offered by the child-focused fitness center: families need a safe, fun, year-round outlet for their child to get out and stay physically active.
“For parents of preschoolers and young children, the new ‘guidelines’ may appear to be restating the obvious: young children need to be active,” said Julie Dobbs of The Little Gym of Litchfield Park.
“But the research behind the guidelines underscores the lifelong value of making vigorous physical activity a priority in your child’s schedule.”
HHS’s key guidelines say preschool-aged children (ages 3 through 5 years) should be physically active throughout the day to enhance growth and development and children and adolescents (ages 6 through 17 years) should do 60 minutes (one hour) or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily.
This level of regular physical activity, according to the report, can help children maintain a healthy weight; build healthy bones, muscles and joints; and even make them more likely to become active and healthy adults.
In addition to the health benefits, the new report states that 60 minutes of physical activity daily has a strong impact on academic performance and social skills. Active children display improved test scores, grades and time management skills; boosted concentration, memory and classroom behavior; increased self-confidence and self-esteem; strengthened social and cooperative skills, such as teamwork and problem solving; and reduced anxiety and stress. In addition, studies show that physically active students score higher on standardized tests and have better grades, particularly in math, English and reading.
“Most parents wouldn’t argue with the importance of keeping their kids active,” Dobbs said. “The challenge is coming up with safe, engaging activities that fit today’s busy schedules and winter’s shorter days.” The key is making the activity fun, she added.
“If children are having fun as they tumble, run and play, then healthy habits will follow.”
Dobbs offers suggestions for high-energy, fun, indoor activities to get kids of all ages moving:
Create an indoor obstacle course with couch cushions, blankets and dining chairs. If space permits, add activity stations for jumping jacks and forward rolls.
Blow up a balloon and see how long the kids can keep it up in the air without touching the ground.
Have a dance party or play freeze dance with your favorite music.
For more information about The Little Gym of Litchfield Park, at 319 N. Litchfield Road, Suite 104B, contact Julie Dobbs at 623-535-5222 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Its website is thelittlegym.com/litchfieldparkaz.