Does exercise improve your mental health?
Physical activity is important for everyone and that’s definitely true for children. 
Of course, parents have nothing to worry about. Children are always on the go. 
Running around the living room, garden or playground is a pretty good workout for a kid. 
But what else should they be doing and why is it important that children as young as 3 have some form of physical activity in their lives? 
Below we go over the benefits of physical activity and answer some common queries about cancer and mental health. We’ll also look at the types of exercise that are appropriate for different age groups. 
If you’re looking to instruct children in physical activity, we have the course just for you

Benefits of Physical Activity for Children 

Strengthens the heart 
Arguably the most important muscle in the body is the heart, so it’s important we treat it right from a young age. 
Exercise strengthens the heart and helps ward off possible illnesses like heart disease. 
Keeps your arteries clear 
As well as strengthening your heart it also helps to reduce the amount of cholesterol and fats in their blood. 
Exercising increases the flexibility of the walls of blood vessels and helps to lower blood pressure. Reducing the risks of illness and disease. 
Strengthens the lungs 
The lungs are a vital organ in our bodies and strengthening them is important. 
It also helps to increase the efficiency of their little lungs. By regularly exercising they are able to prevent the natural decline of oxygen intake. 
Reduces blood sugar 
Regular exercising can help to prevent sugar from accumulating in the blood, triggering muscles to take up more glucose from the bloodstream and use it as energy. 
It also helps to reduce the risk of diabetes. Like many of the points here this is also paired with having a healthy diet. 
Healthy weight 
Exercising can help keep your child at a healthy weight. Having a healthy weight is important as it helps the heart and it has good benefits especially if your child is diabetic. 
Being physical will help strengthen their bodies and help them to maintain a healthy lifestyle, in an enjoyable way. 
Strengthens the bones 
When exercising, your bones start to become stronger due to the physical stress they are put under. Strengthening your bones is vital to becoming stronger and it helps to ward off diseases like Osteoporosis in later life. 
This is where your bones start to lose their density, weaken, become porous and fragile. 
Improves energy levels 
By exercising, your overall energy levels will improve. It will help them to engage more and to be more active and present. They will have a good balance of energy. Not going around with excess energy and being sufficiently tired that they get good sleep but increasing their overall energy levels and tolerance for exercise. 
Chart showing mental health increase

Can physical activity prevent cancer? 

With 1 in 2 people being diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, many parents understandably want to know if there are ways they can prevent their child from getting it. 
The American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention, say increased physical activity can lower the risk of getting some types of cancer. These include breast, prostate, colon, endometrium and pancreatic cancer. 

Improving your child’s mental health 

Another big concern for young people these days is mental health and the increase in the number of children suffering from it. 
Exercise has been proven to increase serotonin and endorphins. Serotonin makes you happy and we release endorphins when we are excited about eating our favourite foods, doing something we enjoy or we have achieved something. 
Endorphins also help to reduce pain and discomfort, therefore making exercise more enjoyable for your child, improving their mental and physical state. 
The mental state of your child is very important because no one wants an unhappy child. Exercising is one of the easiest ways to help your child improve their mental health. 
We’ve talked about the benefits of exercise on mental health before in this post

What exercise is best for each age group? 

A question that gets asked a lot is what age should we start encouraging sports and physical activity? 
After all they are just children. We don’t want to work them too hard. And when can they go to the gym? 
The physical activity starts when the child starts to grow as they get older it can change how they exercise. 

Different age groups 

Exercise for ages 3 - 5 

Keeping your child active at this age is not a hard thing to do as they will do most of it instinctively. 
Running around during the day and going up and down the stairs are forms of exercise for younger children. This will naturally allow them to build up strength and muscle. 
When children start nursery, this is when they start to get more involved with sports. For example joining a football, gymnastics or basketball team, will encourage them to exercise differently. 
It is important to know that sport at this age should not be seen as a competition but more as something to do for fun. 
It will teach them so many skills like communication and teamwork as well as keeping them fit and healthy. It is also a great way to make friends. 
From 6 months to 3 years old, you can go swimming with your child, where they can blow bubbles and get used to that environment. This is another way to exercise. 
Then when they get to about 4 - 5 they can start to learn how to properly swim. 

Exercise for ages 6 - 8 

You will see a change in how your child has developed when they get to this age, as they will be able to properly hit a ball and partake in sports more intently than they did before. 
Being involved in different sports will help them to find a way of exercising that they will enjoy and is right for them. 

Exercise for ages 9 - 11 

As they develop, their hand-eye coordination will improve meaning that they will now be able to start fostering healthy competition. 
Do not encourage competition if all you are going to do is focus on winning. 
Sport should be enjoyable and too much pressure and punishment could result in them resenting it, putting them off it in the years to come. 

Exercise for ages 12 - 14 

As they get more exposed to different ways of exercising they might gravitate towards lifting weights and exercises like this. 
It is important that you do not let your child do this unless they have neutered puberty as it can have a massive effect on their growth. 
You can try other alternatives like bodyweight exercises like squats and push-ups. 

Exercise for ages 15+ 

Once they have gone through puberty, they can start to lift weights. 
It is important that they learn from an expert how to properly handle weights and learn the techniques so they do not damage their bodies as they are still developing. 
As your child grows, so will their interests. It is important that they stay active for their growth no matter how old they are. 
If you are looking to teach children we offer a course here at Sportsability where you can do that. 
Our level 2 award in instructing physical activity for children could be the right course for you! 
You will learn the skills to plan and deliver safe and effective physical activity sessions for 5 - 11 years and 11 - 15-year-olds. You will also learn about all the safeguarding needed when teaching physical activity to children. 
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