Children and adolescents need physical activity for their growth process since this strengthens their muscles and bones, develops their motor skills and gives them general health. Childhood is also the initial stage of learning; according to Magill (2007), this is when they will “acquire movement coordination patterns that will allow some degree of success at achieving the action goal of the skill”.
The benefits that exercise brings to children are countless, but from my perspective the top three are:
1. Builds stronger bones
In the prepubertal and pubertal stage children’s bones are in development and their skeleton is very sensitive to the stimulus received from physical activity since this produces a mechanical strain that stimulates bone formation. Practising sports in a moderate way helps to increase their bone mass to prevent paediatric osteoporosis. Hence, the importance of practising games and sports that implicate weight-bearing such as football, gymnastics or contact sports which will strengthen the lower limbs and provide higher bone density.
2. Improves learning skills
Exercise also plays a significant role in children’s learning process. Some studies have shown that when exercise is performed for an extended period, in a repeated format and with some degree of complexity, this not only produces improvement in physical fitness but also in the brain’s structure, enhancing the cognition process.
Learning becomes easier after performing physical activity and reports long-lasting effects from regular participation. Therefore, in this respect activities that involve repetitive movement patterns and discipline such as martial arts, ballet, yoga or Pilates will bring extra benefits to children in their growth process.
3. Prevents high-risk diseases
Encouraging children to perform exercise will also counteract lack of physical activity, which in children brings the same health risks as it does in adults. Kids are not free from acquiring illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases. In the UK, the NHS, for example, is dealing with an increase in the incidence of these diseases, thus, it recommends that children should participate daily in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity.
Kids are active by nature; running, jumping and playing games and sports are activities that most of them enjoy. It is our responsibility as adults to motivate and encourage kids to stay active since this is not only essential for their growth, but to get a healthier future.
Founder of Kids Pilates in Action
Level 3 Pilates Instructor / Physical Activity for Children Instructor
-Magill, R.A., 2007. Motor Learning and Control: Concepts and Applications. New York: McGraw-Hill
- NHS, 2013. Physical activity guidelines for children and young. [online]. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/physical-activity-guidelines-for-young-people.aspx
-Rodriguez, V., 2006. “How does exercise affect bone development during growth?”. Sports Med. 2006;36(7):561-9.
-Tomporowski, P., McCullick,B. and Pesce, C., 2015. “Enhancing Children's Cognition With Physical Activity Games”. [eBook]