Play for Health!
Play is one of the most amazing things ever. It’s not only enjoyable but also beneficial to people of all ages and abilities! One of the major benefits of play is the opportunity to be physically active while having fun. Movement is inherent in play and instead of being a chore, it is an exciting and social way to get the 60 minutes of exercise recommended for children ages 6-17 by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Since February is Heart Month, let’s start this chat about how spending time on a playground can make hearts healthier!
Play and Exercise Improve Cardiovascular Health
Exercise strengthens your heart and helps it more efficiently pump blood throughout the body. Starting children with vigorous activity at a young age strengthens their hearts and lungs and can help reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease later in life.
Healthy Habits for Life
Physical activity in children helps them develop what the Aspen Institute calls Physical Literacy or “the ability, confidence and desire to be physically active for life.” This sets them up for healthy habits that transcend childhood and help them be healthier adults! Parents, coaches and community members can also model healthy behaviors, so children see how it positively impacts the adults in their lives.
Bone Health Boost
Bone-strengthening exercises like climbing, jumping and running help to improve bone density making bones stronger and better able to support us throughout our lives. This is especially important for females who tend to lose more bone mass as they age.
Physical activity helps build more lean muscle mass that supports joints, improves metabolism and, combined with healthy food choices, can decrease body fat. While body fat isn’t always harmful, abdominal fat is linked to cardiovascular disease and other health issues. Keeping kids active, playing and living a healthy lifestyle can reduce that harmful body fat and provide better health outcomes.
Life is About Balance
The more kids move, and in a variety of ways such as climbing, sliding, walking on balance beams or blocks and jumping, the better they are able to develop their balance. Children and teenagers who transition to adulthood with stronger limbs tend to maintain better balance.
Supports a Healthy Immune System
Exercise is a great way to naturally boost your immune system! Moderate to high levels of exercise are linked to lower instances of illness in children. And it improves social connections which are also shown to boost immunity!
So, what’s the overall message here? Physical movement and exercise supports healthy children, healthy families and healthy communities. Exercise doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, a chore or something we’re forced to do. Find something you love, head to your local playground – even better if it’s a Burke playground, do an obstacle course as a family or take a hike! However you do it, incorporate exercise and movement into your life every day!
For more information, visit Aspen Institute or the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.