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2018-19 Eat Smart. Play Hard Magazine

2018-19 Magazine

2018-19 Eat Smart. Play Hard. Magazine

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What’s the difference between physical activity and exercise? How much do kids need?

In general, children should participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day.

Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure. This is different from exercise, which is planned, structured and repetitive, and has an objective of improving or maintaining physical fitness.

The basic difference is that physical activity is any movement and exercise is structured. Physical activity is going for a brisk walk, but exercise could incorporate resistance training and stretching in addition to your walk.

In general, children should participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day. The American Heart Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services, and 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans all say the same thing in regard to elementary-age children. None of these groups note a difference between boys and girls; both should complete 60 minutes per day.

If children don’t have a full 60 minutes at one time, physical activity can be broken into two 30-minute periods or four 15-minute periods during the day. The physical activity should be moderate (brisk walking) or vigorous (running).  Suggestions for moderate and vigorous activity include:

  • Moderate - riding a bike, brisk walking and games that require catching and throwing
  • Vigorous – running; sports such as soccer, ice or field hockey, basketball, swimming or tennis; and active games requiring running and chasing, such as tag or flag football

Children also should participate in muscle- and bone-strengthening activities at least three days per week. Muscle-strengthening activities are games such as tug-of-war; resistance exercises using bands, body weight or hand-held weights; climbing a rope, tree or wall; and doing sit-ups. Bone-strengthening activities are games that involve hopping, skipping or jumping and running.

These activities can be incorporated into the 60 minutes of activity recommended for children. Parents can encourage their children to meet this 60-minute goal in several ways:

  • Set an example by leading an active lifestyle: go for a walk daily and encourage your children to accompany you.
  • Take your children to places where they can be active: public parks, baseball fields or basketball courts.
  • Make the physical activity fun and something your child enjoys. Activities can include team or individual sports and recreational activities such as walking, running, skating, bicycling, swimming, playground activities or free-time play.

Encouraging your children to be physically active at least one hour per day can help them set the foundation for a lifetime of good health.

Donna Terbizan, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences, NDSU

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