Most people know what physical activity is, but do you know why physical activity is so important? It isn't so you can look all sweaty like people on TV commercials for exercise equipment. And it isn't so you can have huge muscles to bust out of your clothes like a superhero, either.
Physical activity is important because it keeps people's bodies–and minds–healthy. Without physical activity, we wouldn't feel or look very good. Actually, there are so many reasons why physical activity is good for you, it's time to get right into it and see why it's cool to be fit!
Reason # 1: Physical Activity Makes You Feel Good
Being active is a most excellent way to feel happy, whether you do it on your own or with a group. If you've had a tough day at school, a fight with your friend, or just feel kind of blue or stressed out, moving your body can help you relax and feel better. Plus, when you're breathing deeply during physical activity and bringing more air into your lungs, your brain likes the extra oxygen. And when you're active and running around, sometimes it's hard to think about just what was bothering you.
Physical activity can make you feel better about yourself, too. When you are stronger and better at doing things, you can feel pretty proud–whether you scored the winning goal or Hula-Hooped for an hour straight!
Reason # 2: Physical Activity Helps Keep Your Weight Healthy
Every time you eat food, your body does the same thing: it "eats" the nutrients in the food as fuel. It burns these nutrients, or calories, to give us energy. You need calories for all the stuff you do, like brushing your teeth and breathing. So it's important for kids to get all the calories they need from the foods they eat.
But if the body isn't able to use all the calories that are coming from food, it stores them away as fat. Physical activity helps keep your weight right for your height by burning up extra calories. When you are active, your body uses that extra fuel to keep you going strong.
Reason # 3: Physical Activity Makes Your Heart Happy
Your heart is the hardest-working muscle in your body. Its #1 job is to pump blood through your body every day of your life! Since it can't lift weights to get stronger, it needs you to do aerobic exercise.
Aerobic is a fancy word for needing oxygen, and aerobic exercise is any kind of activity that makes your muscles use oxygen. Aerobic exercise is the kind you do over and over to keep bringing fresh oxygen to all of your muscles. When you do aerobic activity and bring in that oxygen, your heart becomes stronger (and even a tiny bit bigger!). The number of blood cells in your blood increases, so the blood can carry even more oxygen. The blood in your body even moves more easily through the blood vessels. All these things mean that your body works better to keep you healthy, and you can play hard without getting worn out.
It's a good idea for kids to do some kind of aerobic activity two or three times a week, for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. Bring on the oxygen by swimming, basketball, ice or roller hockey, jogging (or walking fast), in-line skating, soccer, cross-country skiing, biking and rowing. Even dancing, skipping and jumping rope are aerobic activities.
Try to move for 60 minutes every day. This can include your favorite aerobic activities and other moves like walking the dog or doing things around the house, like vacuuming, sweeping and raking leaves. You can even reach your 60-minute goal by moving for 10 minutes at a time throughout the day. Go for it!
Reason # 4: Physical Activity Makes You Stronger
All the muscles in your body do a fine job when you use them for easy stuff, like picking up a book or walking down the stairs. But what about using them for harder stuff, like taking long bike rides, climbing a tree or carrying your backpack to class? That's where activity comes in: it makes your muscles get stronger and sometimes larger. As your muscles get stronger, you can do more active things for longer periods of time. And strong muscles also help protect you from injuries when you play, because they give better support to your joints (where your bones meet).
Building up all different types of muscles is easy to do. For awesome arms, try push-ups, pull-ups, tug-of-war or twirling a baton. And don't forget the strength of the sea: rowing in a rowboat or canoe is great for building strong arm muscles. For strong leg muscles, try running, blading, skating and bike riding. And for strong stomach muscles (these are the muscles called "abs"–abdomen is a fancy word for the area below your rib cage), try some half sit-ups (with your knees bent and your feet on the floor), bike riding or even swirling a Hula-Hoop around your waist. Now that's fun!
Reason # 5: Physical Activity Makes You Flexible
Can you touch your toes easily without yelling "ouch"? If so, you're pretty flexible, which means you can bend and stretch your body without too much trouble. But as people get older they tend to get less flexible, so that's why it's important to be active when you're a kid–to stay flexible. Plus, when you're flexible, you can play harder without having to worry about getting sprained and strained muscles.
It's easy to find things to do for good flexibility! Tumbling and gymnastics are great ways to become more flexible. And say "yes" to yoga. Don't forget dancing, especially ballet. And for fans of karate, tae kwon do and other martial arts, you're in luck: these sports are great for flexibility, you'll be feeling fine and having fun!
Try some cool moves:
Get in the Groove with the 10-Minute Move
Reviewed by the Kidnetic.com Scientific Advisory Panel, 2006