No matter how old they are, it’s good to get kids moving and to find an exercise routine tailored to their interest, skills and age, say experts, who note physical exercise is good for both the mind and the body.
“You tailor their activities to their age and their abilities,” said Jo Ackers, a fitness instruction at the Jewish Community Center in Scranton. “For instance, for young kids, it’s the Hokey Pokey. They learn about their right arm and their left arm and how to turn around.”
The President’s Council on Physical Fitness estimates only one in three children are physically active every day, with children spending seven-and-a-half hours a day in front of the television or computer screen.
Ackers said the best age to start kids in an exercise program is 2.
“At that age, they are starting to talk a little more and understand a little more,” she said. “They have a little more balance too.”
She’s currently teaching a class at the Jewish Community Center for ‘Moms and Tots,’ where kids learn to share, lift and catch a ball.
“A lot of it is having them mimic what you’re doing because there is a lot of imitation going on at that age,” she said.
As kids get older and their balance gets even better, Ackers said, parents should feel out other activities like roller skating or even skiing.
“Soccer is always good around kindergarten age,” she said. “They learn how to kick and follow directions.” T-ball is good, too, Ackers said.
As kids get older, team sports like like basketball and baseball become more popular. Ackers said exercise is good for child development on a number of levels.
“I’ve always felt when you feel good physically, you feel good emotionally,” she said. “Our kids are under a lot of stress. Now more than ever, exercise is important to get rid of those anxieties.”
She also noted the obvious health benefits. “A lot of these kids are not moving as much as they should and they are eating a lot more junk food and of course that puts weight on. Exercise builds strength.”
The federal government estimates obesity rates are at an all-time high. Recent reports project that by 2030, half of all adults will be obese with adolescents having a 70-percent chance of becoming an overweight or obese adult.
She said getting kids involved in fitness at an early age also builds a fitness routine that they will likely continue as they get older.
“It helps them in school,” she said. “It helps them sleep better. When they are active, they get tired. When they wake up well-rested, they do better in school and think more clearly.”
While fitness may be good for the body, it’s also good for the mind and social skills where computers and smartphones aren’t needed.
“Emotionally, they also get connected to other kids and enjoy good social activities,” she said.