Many parents who are focused on the well-being of their kids cook nutritious meals, use natural products inside the home and purchase organic detox products. While all of these things are important, there is another simple act that parents can do to improve their children's health – make sure they get enough exercise. Recently, a study from researchers at Georgia Health Sciences University set out to determine exactly how much exercise is ideal for children, and determined, not surprisingly, that more is better.
According to the scientists, while 20 minutes of exercise daily can dramatically improve children's health and reduce their risk of developing certain health problems later in life, 40 minutes is even better.
Combating a major health problem
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one-third of all American children are at an unhealthy weight. This increases their chances of developing a number of health concerns as adults, which is why it's important to determine how much exercise is needed to help ensure wellness into old age.
To conduct their study, researchers examined 222 overweight, previously inactive 7- to 11-year-olds. One group maintained their sedentary lifestyle, while another exercised for 20 minutes a day and a final group exercised for 40 minutes daily.
The scientists found that kids in the group that maintained a higher heart rate for 40 minutes experienced the greatest health benefits, including weight loss and a reduced risk of developing conditions related to being overweight later in life.
Put it into practice
While these are promising findings, the researchers added that public health interventions are needed to make sure kids get this level of exercise. For example, researcher Catherine Davis, M.D., pointed out that in many physical fitness classes, kids are simply standing around waiting for a ball to be thrown to them. In this study, researchers kept children constantly moving, which is the key to a proper exercise routine.
To reach the goal of 40 minutes of exercise, the researchers added that schools need to get involved both during the day and in after school programs.
"If you are able to get kids active for 20 minutes every day in school, whether through physical education or taking a running break during lunch, that can make a real difference," said Davis. "You can reach a lot of kids by making changes at school. We don't want this to just be for athletic or coordinated kids but for all kids, especially the ones who are less likely to be on a sports team."