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Given the increasing numbers of overweight and obese children, coupled with higher rates of serious diseases in children, parents are interested in how exercise can help 145. Regular exercise, which can involve nature walks, unstructured play, bicycling, playing tag or participating on sports teams, benefits children in significant ways 45. All physical activity, even simple household chores, is beneficial.
Children who exercise have leaner body composition, less fat and are less prone to becoming overweight or obese 14. Those who are already overweight can lose those excess pounds through exercise. As a result of being at a healthy weight that is proportional to height and body type, a child is less prone to develop serious diseases that can result from being overweight.
Bones and Muscles
Exercise helps children’s bones become and stay strong and enhances the bones’ mineral density 14. Having strong bones is especially important for growing children. Children’s muscles also become stronger through exercise 4. Building strong bones and muscles means children have more stamina and resilience to handle whatever challenges might come their way.
Children who exercise are less likely to develop diseases and chronic conditions, including diabetes, allergies, thyroid imbalances, abnormal cholesterol levels, heart problems, respiratory issues and orthopedic problems 14. Some believe that various childhood mental disorders, including depression, anxiety and attention issues, are at least partly physiological in origin and can be improved through exercise 1.
As children exercise, more blood flows through their bodies and to all cells and tissues 14. This helps to move adequate oxygen and nutrients to every area of the body, which is greatly beneficial to a growing child whose entire body needs large quantities of nutrients. As a result of added nutrients, the child has more energy for physical activities 3.
Exercise helps a child’s body to detoxify because it enhances blood flow. This is especially important given the amount of toxins that exist in the air, water and food that children encounter, in addition to the wastes that develop within the body from metabolism.
Exercise can benefit a child’s brain in significant ways. It stimulates the formation of new neurons and enhances a substance that brain cells need to grow. As a result of these brain improvements from exercise, children experience better cognitive performance and focus, among other benefits 124. Children who are in better physical shape as a result of exercise also have more rapid reaction times than children who do not exercise 45. Exercise also helps children sleep better, which is another brain-related benefit 45.
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