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Importance of Physical Activity for Children

August 11, 2013 by HealthyFamilies BC

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young girl in active wear smiling


Children need to be active every day to promote their healthy growth and development.

Kids who establish healthy lifestyle patterns at a young age will carry them - and their benefits - forward for the rest of their lives.

 Physical activity can help kids cope with stress. It also promotes: 

  • Healthy growth and development 
  • Better self-esteem 
  • Stronger bones, muscles and joints 
  • Better posture and balance 
  • A stronger heart 
  • A healthier weight range 
  • Social interaction with friends 
  • Learning new skills while having fun 
  • Better focus and concentration during school

Ask if they want to be a part of a team or do an individual activity, enroll in a skill based or recreational class or do their activity with a friend or family member. 

Parents can provide support and guidance about how to start and how much activity a child needs each day. They need to feel motivated and enjoy their activities. Keeping an activity log can help them chart their progress, while praise and rewards for each small step achieved can help to keep them motivated. 

Children should: 

  • Include a warm up and cool down as part of each activity session
  • Drink water before, and after activities - and have water breaks during their activities
  • Wear sunblock, a hat and sunglasses when outside in warmer weather
  • Use the right size of protective equipment
  • Start at a level that matches their current fitness level. Too much too soon can result in injury. Always play it safe

Canada 's Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living for Children tells us that three different types of activities promote healthy growth and development: 

1. Endurance

Endurance or aerobic activities - activities that involve continuous movement of large muscle groups - increase heart rate, cause breathing to quicken, and make you work up a sweat. They are important for development of a healthy heart and lungs. 

Endurance activities can be lots of fun - and they don't have to be competitive. Help your children choose the right activities for them. Here are a few examples: 

  • Scootering, in-line skating, skateboarding
  • Swimming, skating, dancing, tennis, martial arts  
  • Hiking, jogging, skipping, playing tag, cycling, dodgeball  
  • Hockey, football, soccer, basketball  
  • Skiing, lacrosse, wall climbing  

2. Flexibility

Activities that encourage children to bend, stretch and reach promote flexibility. Having adequate flexibility allows children to participate in daily activities without pain or restriction from their muscles or joints. 

Being flexible promotes good posture, reduces muscle stiffness and soreness, increases relaxation and minimizes risk of injury 

Flexibility Activities 

  • Active play on a playground 
  • Digging in the garden or at the beach, raking leaves
  • Gymnastics, dancing, wall climbing 
  • Yoga, skipping, stretching routines 

3. Strength

Working against a resistance helps children build stronger muscles. Adequate muscular strength allows kids to deal with the demands of daily life without excessive stress on their joints and muscles. 

Activities that build strength promote strong bones, muscles and good posture, improve the ability to lift and manoeuvre objects and obstacles and enhance healthy growth and development. 

Strength activities to promote strong bones and muscles include: 

  • Lifting and carrying things like groceries, garbage and garden waste 
  • Raking leaves, climbing stairs 
  • Gymnastics, doing sit-ups and push-ups 
  • Playground activities: monkey bars, climbing ladders, scaling poles 
  • Calisthenics using their own body weight as resistance or supervised weight training exercises using tubing, bands and hand weights. 


Action Schools! BC
Jump Rope for Heart
Canada's Physical Activity Guide for Children
Canada's Physical Activity Guide for Youth
Active Communities
British Columbia Recreation and Parks Association
Everybody Gets to Play (program focused on ensuring that economically disadvantaged children and families have access to quality leisure experiences)

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Comments (1)

Travis Barker, MPA GCPM

Posted on Monday January 27, 2014 a 10:16pm

Greetings from Special Olympics BC-Vancouver!

This is a really great topic. The benefits that children receive from being supported in regular physical activities emphasize endurance, flexibility, and strength. In addition, regular physical activities for children with intellectual disabilities have additional benefits as well. This includes the following important developmental areas:

Ongoing physical activities support the formation of crucial relationships that help children bond, understand, and relate to others.

Peer Support
Ongoing physical activities support a sense of belonging and purpose within group. The ability to learn with and from others is thus enhanced. .

Ongoing physical activities also support the crucial skills that are needed to recognize group norms, values, and expectations.

Pro-social Development
Ongoing physical activities also support the formation of and recognition of reciprocity which in turn supports skills that are crucial for forming relationships, and performing well in group activities.

How this Contributes to a Lifetime of Physical Fitness
All of these developmental benefits of ongoing physical activity, meaning bonding, socialization, and pro-social development, create the structure and momentum needed to sustain a lifetime of physical fitness.

The benefits are well worth emphasizing in our families weekly planning of activities. Many non profit volunteer organizations, including Special Olympics, have many programs to support children with special needs to develop their physical fitness in an environment that is both inclusive and fun!

Travis Barker, MPA GCPM
PR Coordinator


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