Providers - Physical Activity
Regular physical activity is a vital part of staying healthy, from birth through adulthood. Physical activity is any movement of the body that uses energy. Due to the increase in obesity and type 2 diabetes in American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations, physical activity is even more important to AI/AN children. Early childhood is the ideal time to teach active lifestyles to children and provide good examples of healthy behaviors. It's up to parents, educators and health professionals to help our AI/AN children learn behaviors that will keep them healthy and happy.
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
- Help children develop healthy behaviors they can sustain throughout their lives
There are significant benefits to be obtained from engaging in moderate physical activity. For young children, this means participating in regular, fun, physical activities that promote fitness. 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.
While greater health benefits are obtained from engaging in vigorous physical activities, children also benefit from less intense activities. To ensure that each child is getting the right amount and variety of activities, physical activity options should:
- Be fun. Activities like bike riding, swimming, playing at a playground and dancing are great ways to get movement in every day.
- Be easily accessible. The more convenient an activity is the more likely you are to do it regularly.
- Be part of your daily life. Replace TV time with daily outdoor activities like walking the dog, working in the yard and going to a local park.
- Be interesting. Boredom leads to exercise burnout, so be sure to mix it up and keep things fresh.
What can you do to promote physical activity in your center?
- Provide safe environments for structured and unstructured play.
- Provide opportunities for children to participate in activity programs that teach movement skills.
- Ensure that each child uses the appropriate safety equipment, such as helmets, during participation.
- Act as a positive role model by participating in activities with children.
- Review height and weight charts and refer child to health care provider if you observe problems such as underweight, overweight
Check out these links about healthy physical activity habits for children and adults.
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