Establishing healthy exercise habits for children is more important now than ever before. Obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents over the last 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2012, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
“Any physical activity a child enjoys that is safe and developmentally appropriate will be beneficial,” says Sally S. Harris, M.D., pediatric sports medicine specialist at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. “For optimal health, growth and development, children need to be encouraged to participate in and enjoy physical activities.”
Walking, hiking, cycling, dancing and swimming are ideal places to start, she says, because these sports can be sustained at any age. There are many different sports options for children of all ages. And, in general, the many health benefits of the physical activity far outweigh the risks of injury, most of which can be prevented or appropriately treated.