As adults, we’re used to hearing about the benefits of exercise and how it helps us maintain a healthy weight, staves off cardiovascular disease, and so on. However, although the topic of kids’ exercise tends to get less attention, physical activity is just as important for their health and well-being as it is for ours. The benefits of exercise for kids affect every area of their lives, from their health (both mental and physical), to their schoolwork. What’s more, those benefits might end up lasting a lot longer than you might think. Here’s why:
Exercise is one of the best ways to prevent childhood obesity, thus helping reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and other obesity-related conditions later on in life. But aside from preventing disease, the importance of exercise for kids also comes from its active role in helping kids build strong bodies that will last them the rest of their lives.
Childrens’ bones continue growing into their late teen years. During and up until that time, weight-bearing activities and muscle use are crucial for developing strong bones. Having healthy bone mass and bone density can even reduce the risk of kids developing conditions, such as osteoporosis, when they get older.
The habits that we learn as children stick with us well into adulthood. By teaching children to prioritize physical activity and well-being when they’re young, you’re not just teaching them healthy habits in the short-term—you’re giving them the tools they need to take care of themselves when they become independent.
Exercising has a plethora of benefits for our brains, including improving alertness, promoting cellular connection, and stimulating the development of new nerve cells. All of this has the effect of making learning easier. These findings were corroborated in an experiment conducted by one Chicago-area school, which saw improved academic performance in students after introducing a before-school exercise program. In turn, academic achievements can help prepare students for successes in higher education and professional careers later on in life.
The last two years of the pandemic have seen a dramatic increase in childrens’ stress levels, a trend that has no doubt been exacerbated by the fact that many children have been deprived of their normal opportunities to exercise during recess and while playing outside with friends. As with adults, physical activity can be an excellent stress-buster. In addition to releasing feel-good endorphins, which can increase an individual’s sense of well-being, exercise can also provide a healthy outlet for emotions, and can serve as a distraction from stressful events in a child’s life.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), kids between the ages of 6 and 17 should get 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Ideally, that exercise should consist of a balance of aerobic activity (such as bicycling!), bone-strengthening, and muscle-building exercises.
Even for adults, there’s no denying that sometimes, exercising is just…boring. And if that’s the case, it can be difficult to find the motivation to hit the gym or go for a walk, even if we know it’s the right thing to do. The same is true for kids.
Bicycling is an extremely versatile form of exercise, and as such, it’s an excellent way to make exercise enjoyable for kids. In addition to allowing them to explore their outdoor surroundings, bicycling can easily be turned into a game or competition by introducing agility and obstacle courses, bicycle polo, or even a good old fashioned race. Furthermore, bicycling can be equally enjoyed as a solo sport or a social activity, making it the perfect form of exercise for both introverts and extroverts.
All Kids Bike is a national movement dedicated to bringing the mental and physical benefits of bike riding to every kid in America. Led by the Strider Education Foundation, our mission is to make bicycling skills an integral part of kids’ elementary school education. Our Kindergarten PE Program provides the curriculum, bikes, and safety equipment needed to teach every kindergartner how to ride at no cost to the school itself. Contact us to learn more about how you can support our vision to make this milestone skill accessible to children, or consider donating to a school in your community.
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