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Physical Activities for Kids: The Benefits of an Active Lifestyle

A smiling young girl climbs on rope climbing gear in a green playground park.One of the best tools to improve the mental and physical health of children is available every day for free: get them moving. Physical activities for kids combat the increasingly serious issue of childhood obesity and can boost their self-esteem and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.

Teachers play a big part in helping children in this area. With almost one in five children now considered obese in the United States and with even more overweight, teachers who see kids five days a week can take the lead in educating them on how physical exercise improves their lives.

Fresno Pacific University offers online professional development courses that can help teachers take advantage of their influence. Those courses include Teaching Lifetime Fitness and Walking for Fitness, both designed to guide teachers in educating their students about the importance of physical activity.

What Is a Healthy Lifestyle?

When people talk about physical activities for kids leading to a healthy lifestyle, what do they mean? That can depend on who is talking, but there are two generally accepted ways to assess whether a child is living a healthy lifestyle.

One involves weight. A quick way to assess a child's health is to use a Body Mass Index calculator. It uses two data points—height and weight—to determine if a child is underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese.

Another is time spent moving. Many Americans, including children, lead increasingly sedentary lives. Most experts recommend about an hour of moderate-to-vigorous exercise for children every day, along with exercises that strengthen bones (such as running or jumping) and exercises that build muscles (such as push-ups) three days a week.

Like adults, the amount each person needs may vary. Perhaps the best definition of a healthy lifestyle comes from Healthline: “A healthy lifestyle simply means doing things that make you happy and feel good.”

The Benefits of a Healthy Lifestyle

No matter how you measure a healthy lifestyle, consistent physical activity for kids helps achieve it. The benefits are apparent in both physical and mental health.

Mental Benefits of a Healthy Lifestyle

A study led by researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center found that physical exercise "improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal."

Other research through the years, as noted by Healthline, has found that regular exercise:

  • Reduces anxiety
  • Reduces depression
  • Improves a person’s mood
  • Improves self-esteem and cognitive function
  • Leads to sharper memory and thinking

Physical Benefits of a Healthy Lifestyle

Numerous studies also show the benefits of getting active and leading a healthy lifestyle. They include:

  • A reduction in the risk for certain diseases and conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and obesity
  • A longer lifespan
  • Feeling more alert and energetic throughout the day
  • Better sleep at night, which science increasingly associates with many benefits, including better cognitive function

Tips For Getting Kids Active

The benefits of physical activity are clear. But how to convince kids to become more active? For educators, it can prove difficult, especially if kids are raised in households where exercise is not a priority. But by sticking to the fundamentals of good fitness, teachers can help students set and achieve fitness goals.

In addition to physical activity, one of those fundamentals is to eat balanced meals (with plenty of vegetables) and less “junk” food such as chips, sweets and other highly processed foods. Another is to encourage social emotional skills that lead to better relationships with classmates, friends and family. These relationships can support better mental health and encourage doing more physical activities.

What Teachers Learn in FPU’s Courses

Teachers can expand their knowledge and earn professional development credits by taking online courses through Fresno Pacific University. Subject matter experts teach each self-paced course, available 100% online.

The Fitness for Life course provides teachers with the skills needed to help students with exercise planning and behavioral changes to improve fitness. This includes methods for measuring fitness, designing fitness programs, injury prevention, measuring exercise intensity and warm-up and cool-down methods. Fresno Pacific designed the course for physical education and classroom teachers in grades 6-14.

The Walking for Fitness course focuses on cardiovascular, muscular and mental fitness for both teachers and students. Educators in the course participate in a carefully monitored walking program. They also learn various strategies for teaching about the value of walking in their classrooms. Fresno Pacific designed the course for coaches, teachers and administrators in grades 5-14.

Both classes allow teachers to develop better health promotion strategies and provide and provide an opportunity for their students (and themselves) to lead a healthy lifestyle. Given the many benefits, it’s one of the most important steps a teacher can take to impact their students positively.