Families - Physical Activity
The following information is designed with you, your family's primary caregiver, in mind. The Indian Health Service (IHS) Head Start Program looks forward to being your family's partner in health. Together we can improve the health of our children and families -- today and in the future.
An active lifestyle is one of the building blocks for healthy children, adolescents and adults. That's why the IHS Head Start Program places healthy physical activity at the top of its list of health priorities.
Too little physical activity and exercise can lead to serious health problems such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. These health problems can follow your child into his or her adult years. However, you can teach your child healthy behaviors that will keep them healthy and happy for a lifetime.
Regular physical activity will:
- Reduce body fat
- Increase lean muscle mass
- Increase endurance and flexibility
- Strengthen muscles and bones
- Reduce risk of injury
- Improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Increase heart health
- Reduce the risk of certain types of chronic disease, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes
There are significant benefits to be obtained from engaging in regular, moderate physical activity. For young children, this means participating in physical activities that promote fitness every day. How much activity does a child need?
- Infants - age birth to 12 months
- Infants need daily interaction with parents/caregivers, with daily physical activities (such as tummy time) that promote exploration of environment and development of movement skills.
- Infants should be placed in safe settings that allow physical activity and do not restrict movement for long periods of time.
- Toddlers - age 12 to 36 months
- Toddlers should engage in at least 30 accumulated minutes of structured physical activity every day.
- Toddlers need at least 60 minutes, and up to several hours of unstructured physical activity, every day.
- Toddlers should not be sedentary for more that 60 minutes at one time, unless sleeping.
- Toddlers should engage in physical activities that assist in the development of more complex motor skills.
- Toddlers should have access to safe indoor and outdoor areas that allow for performing large muscle activities.
- Preschoolers - age three to five years
- Preschoolers need at least 60 minutes of structured physical activities every day.
- Preschoolers should participate in at least 60 minutes, and up to several hours, of unstructured physical activities every day.
- Preschoolers should not be sedentary for more than 60 minutes at one time, unless sleeping.
- Preschoolers should have access to safe indoor and outdoor environments that allow for performing large muscle activities.
- Preschoolers need to develop competence in movement skills that will assist in developing more complex motor skills.
You can encourage physical activity by:
- Limiting your child's television time to fewer than two hours per day.
- Arranging structured activities as well as free-time play for your child.
- Acting as a positive role model for your child by participating with him or her in moderate and vigorous physical activities, such as riding bikes or scooters, swimming, playing ball, walking or running together. You can also play in the snow, tumble in the leaves and dance with your child.
- Putting your children in sports and activity programs, such as soccer, swimming, dance, baseball or softball.
- Reinforcing your child's participation in physical activities and encouraging participation in new activities.
- Ensuring that the activities are safe and that your child uses safety equipment such as helmets, wrist and knee pads.
Physical Activity Tips and Resources for Head Start Families
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