Healthy Children - December 2013



Organized sports are great ways for kids to exercise, but they aren't enough. All the instruction leaves too much time where young athletes are standing still, so parents need to give kids more chances for fun physical activities.

To stay healthy, children need a full hour of physical activity every day, and many parents assume that's provided at team practices. Unfortunately, not all of the practice time is used to keep kids moving. Much of it is spent listening to instruction or waiting in line for practice drills. This doesn't mean organized sports aren't useful; they just shouldn't be the only source of activity for your child.

"I tell parents to start their children in organized sports or dance when they are in preschool and early elementary school," says John Galgani, MD, community pediatrician and board­ certified pediatric endocrinologist at St. Louis Children's Hospital. "However, unstructured activity, where kids are regularly moving, is even more important."

Worth Every Minute
It can be challenging to make sure your children get the exercise they need, but the benefits are worth the work.

• Girls who exercise regularly are less likely to experiment with drugs in adolescence.
• Boys use activities to socialize, so their unstructured exercise helps them adjust to community life.
• Children who exercise regularly are at a lowered risk for obesity and related complications.
• Exercising can improve a child's self-esteem.