Fitness for kids -

Fitness for kids

Some people believe you can never get enough exercise.

Maybe, maybe not. But what's the right amount for children?

"Fitness is critical," says America Now pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson. "It's as important for children as eating and sleeping."

Fitness training for kids actually starts when they're infants. Put them on their tummy for tummy-time is how they learn to push up with their arms and build their upper body strength. Then they'll start to roll over. Eventually, they'll get themselves sitting up. Then they start to crawl and then they're walking and running.

And as anyone with a toddler knows, those years are full of running and activity!

In the preschool years, a lot of kids are starting to take classes. Once they go to grade school, starting around kindergarten or first grade, is when you begin to see organized sports. They'll learn how to follow rules, how to have a structure and how to have a coach tell them what to do.

"When we say they need 60 minutes a day, it could be a chunk of 60 minutes or it could be six 10-minute segments. Or anything in between," says Dr. Natterson.

And Dr. Natterson stresses that 60 minutes of activity is just the minimum. She also says sports are not the only way for kids to get exercise.

"I'm a big fan of tricycles and three-wheeled scooters with helmets for young children. Jump ropes, hula hoops are great. I feel very strongly that kids should have lots of free play time where there's an adult kind of supervising them, but not an adult telling them what to do," says Dr. Natterson. "Kids should not be on your elliptical at home, horsing around. They should not be on your treadmill. They should not be on your stationary bike. Those machines are not designed for them. I've seen a lot of treadmill injuries in my time. I don't like treadmills for kids!"

She adds that she stopped letting her kids use a stroller at 18 months old to encourage more physical activity.

"I had a rule that once they could walk and walk well, they didn't get a free ride anymore. And my kids also play an organized sport here and there. They're young. They're not super athletes, but they get their bodies moving every day," she explains.

Copyright 2012 America Now. All rights reserved.

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