How Active Should Our Children Be?
by Patricia Conway Chartered Physiotherapist at Functional Training Ireland.
The benefits of exercise in children are profoundly important for long term physical, social and mental health. From bone density to prevention of obesity, exercise in the young lays the foundation of a healthy life. Lessons experienced through sport can provide important lessons in life. What form should this exercise take to have optimum benefits in the child and adolescent and how can we decrease injury risks from exercise?
< 2 unstructured play
3-5 avoid organized sport run, swim and free play
6-9 skill acquisition possible, involve in less complex organized sport run, swim, gymnastics, ballsports
10-12 more complex skills allowing more complex sports
Risks to children from excessive exercise:
May be seen where children become specialized in one sport too early especially in all year round sports
- Traumatic injury
Participation in any activity organized or otherwise can lead to collisions or falls and can result in related injuries. Adequate supervision with use of protective equipment can reduce this.
- Exercise and rapid growth spurt.
The bone can get become thinner in the six months following rapid growth spurts. This can increase the risk of bone injury. There may also be reduced coordination and flexibility at this time with decreased performance which may affect confidence. Being aware of this and adapting training during these vulnerable changes can ensure the young active person can continue to participate and enjoy exercise.
Exercise has many benefits however we must be able to adapt to growing children to minimize injury risks.