Why is physical fitness so important for children?
Globally, physical inactivity has reached pandemic proportions. The first 10 years of life are game-changing; these years provide a critical window for creating a lifelong commitment to physical activity. Research shows that kids need at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day. However, only one in five kids currently reaches that minimum.
Physical inactivity and poor food choices cause all sorts of problems, like diabetes, problem behavior, low self-esteem, heart disease, mental health issues, liver disease, and poor school performance.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends active play as the best exercise for younger children, including running. Kids are designed to move and run, and it’s an activity that is easy for them as well as fun. If they are interested in participating in other sports, running provides the physical foundation to move; and if they are not, movement of any kind increases their coordination and mental focus.
In fact, physical activity has multiple, far-reachingeffects that last into adulthood. For example, the physical training in a typical soccer practice helps reduce the risk for depression while the strength training in that same practice will increase long-term skeletal health.
Science tells us that kids who create healthy habits of physical activity and eating well are sculpting both their bodies and minds in a positive way; this sets children on a positive path that will influence the rest of their lives. Frequent and consistent movement is associated with better grades, attendance, and behavior while in elementary school, and as they grow, this will become a trajectory that results in upward mobility for both themselves and their own children, later on.
According to DesignedtoMove.org, research shows that physical activity can positively impact everything educators are trying to achieve. “When children move regularly in school, behavior, attention, attendance and academic performance often improve. In the future, these children will have better income prospects, improved physical and mental health, and higher productivity.”
What can we do to get kids moving?
Coach Maria Mendez, a K-5 PE teacher at Freedom Elementary School in Southside Independent School District (approximately 20 miles south of downtown San Antonio) is a lifelong runner herself and decided to start a running club with her 4th graders.
“[Our running club] has really inspired my students to become closer to one another, and to me. It has taught them responsibility, given them stamina, courage, and a love for running. It has made me become a better role model for my students. They always know what days we are running, and if certain circumstances arise, and they can’t run, they aren’t very happy.”
For more information on how you can start a run club in your home, school, or neighborhood, visit the Marathon Kids website. If you want to get kids moving, we're here to help!
Cami Hawkins is the CEO of Marathon Kids, a non-profit based in Austin, Texas.
For another great way to get the whole family moving, join the Science Mill for the second annual Science of Sports on Saturday, April 14! For one day only, Science Mill visitors can test balance, measure reflexes, improve focus and more at eight specially designed stations. You’ll walk away with a better understanding of the scientific principles behind movement, plus great tips for improving your performance. Record your family's or group's highest score at each station for a chance to get on the Science of Sports Leaderboard. The highest scoring team of the day will win a Family Membership to the Science Mill!