Most people are well aware that exercise has many benefits including stronger muscles and bones, weight control, cardiovascular health, reduced stress and improved mood.

However, despite this knowledge, less than half of all adults meet the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for physical activity. And fewer than three in ten teens get the recommended 60 minutes or more of physical activity per day.

Children and adolescents can benefit in both the short and long term by exercising. For help with motivation, consider the long-term consequences of inactivity. Research shows an increased risk for:
• Cardiovascular disease including high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes
• Diabetes
• Developing certain cancers
• Becoming overweight or obese (which in turn increases the risk of other diseases)
• Osteoperosis
• Anxiety, depression, stress levels, and poor self-esteem
• Sleep issues
• School-related issues

Inactive children are likely to become inactive adults.
Both the CDC and the American Heart Association recommend that children and adolescents get 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of physical activity daily, the majority of which should be either moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity.

With moderate-intensity activity the heart rate increases and breathing is harder. On a scale from 0 to 10 with sitting and 10 is the highest effort level possible, moderate-intensity activity is a 5 or 6. Examples include brisk walking, hiking, dancing, bicycle riding, baseball and softball.

With vigorous-intensity the heart will beat much faster and breathing will seem more labored. This activity is about a 7 or 8 on the same scale. Examples include soccer, basketball, jumping rope, and other active games that involve running.

Activities should be age-appropriate, enjoyable and offer variety.

There is no better time than now to get started. Here are some tips to make the move:
• Commit to small changes that will add up over time.
• Look for chances to be more active – take the stairs, walk before shopping, take sitting breaks.
• Walk or bike to school.
• Limit screen time and plan outdoor activities.
• Make it fun – there is no need for organized sports unless that’s what is desired. Pick an activity you enjoy, involve family and friends.
• Track your success – aim for 10,000 steps/day using various phone apps and other resources.
• Parents – be role models for your kids.

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by Dr. Jane Wilkov, M.D.