We hear a lot about adult obesity and the need to increase adult’s physical activity, but what about children? In 2017-18, 1 in 4 Australian children and adolescents aged 2-17 were overweight or obese (1) and only 23% of children aged 5–14 met the National Physical Activity recommendations every day (2). At Longevity Personal Training and Exercise Physiology Edgecliff, Lindfield, Randwick and Marrickville, we want to get the message across that the increasing number of children who are overweight or obese can be reversed!
How do you know if your child’s weight is healthy?
A child’s weight status is determined using an age and sex specific percentile for Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by their height in meters squared. You can measure your child’s BMI from the Better Health Channel. Click here.
How much exercise?
A common misconception is that kids don’t need to do formalised exercise; that they get their exercise from playing or at school in physical education classes. This is rarely the case since children now spend so much time using technology. According to the National Physical Activity Guidelines, 5-17 years old’s need to accumulate 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity every day (3), in addition to several hours of light physical activities. Providing children with the opportunity to engage in formalised exercise is essential for meeting this guideline.
Formalised exercise simply means that it is planned in advance and normally has a set time frame and goal. For example, organised sport and sport-specific training, walks or bike rides, independent gym training; are all ways children can achieve 60 minutes of exercise per day.
Can your child squat, lunge, push, row, hip hinge etc?
The Physical Activity Guidelines also advise that 5-17 year old’s should engage in activities that strengthen muscle and bone on at least 3 days of the week. Performing strengthening exercises is essential for children’s motor control and coordination development and it lays the foundation for more complex movements and advanced sport training as they get older.
Strength training should start using children’s own body weight as the main form of resistance and then gradually build up to involve additional load. The earlier children are exposed to basic fundamental gym-based movements, the more competent they are going to be and the easier it will be for them to meet the physical activity guidelines as adults.
Charlie demonstrating a body weight squat and weighted squat. Weighted squats are much harder, helping to build strength.
Keep in mind…
Children should not be held back from being physically active because of any condition, disability or injury. Exercise can play an important role in helping them manage their condition and preventing lifestyle related diseases.
What do we need to do?
- Make exercise fun and praise and encourage children’s involvement
- Be a role model: show children you enjoy living a healthy lifestyle yourself and they will model your behaviours and attitude
- Limit sedentary recreational screen time to no more than 2 hours per day
- Meet the physical activity guidelines!
The Accredited Exercise Physiologists at Longevity have the skills and knowledge to prescribe effective exercise interventions that are individualised to children’s abilities and physical activity needs. If you would like help getting your child or children moving well and more, then get in contact with the team at Longevity on 1300 964 002.
Written by Courtney Maher