Children Moving for Joy, Resilience, and Health

Currently the Centers for Disease Control present that children and adolescents should participate in 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on a daily basis. This specific recommendation is for school-aged children between the ages of 6 and 17 and includes aerobic activities such as walking, running, swimming or biking, and muscular strength, bone-enhancing activities such as supervised use of light weights, calisthenics, or even using a racquet or bat to hit a ball. The research is clear that lifestyle-related diseases like heart disease, type II diabetes, and obesity are associated with a sedentary lifestyle and are occurring in children. Unfortunately, the data demonstrate that only 24% of school-aged children meet the physical activity recommendations, while only 51% of high school students attend any physical education activity in an average week.   

If we observe younger children (preschool through first or second grade) they delight in running about or playing that involves movement—both of which are often accompanied by unadulterated laughter and glee. Their bodies, although growing which is also physical work, enjoy the thrill of movement and emotionally there is a distinct throughline between movement and joy. As children age, they may or may not remain acquainted with the emotional exhilaration that arises from moderate to vigorous physical activity. Our physical bodies are a powerful implement of strength, resilience and joy; research suggests that physically active children and adolescents perform better academically, engage in less risky behaviors, and have an improved outlook supporting resilience and coping with adversity.

As parents, teachers, and leaders of children we have an opportunity to demonstrate and guide them towards harnessing the emotional and physical strength that can be cultivated and enjoyed through engaging in regular physical movement. As adults, we can reintroduce children to the elevation and personal power that comes from physical activity and reveal that they have a magnificent opportunity to create a life that includes living in a healthy, strong body.  The more connected and aware they are with the joy-enhancing, stress-reducing effects of movement, the more likely they will be to engage in physical activity as a matter of choice throughout their life. We teach our children all manner of self-care behaviors i.e. showering, tooth brushing, hopefully vegetable eating, walking on the sidewalk, and even prayer. We do these things out of love and concern, hoping to prepare them to not only survive but to thrive throughout their life. Our body is by design a vehicle through which we can optimize our emotional, mental, and physical well-being. Let’s not miss the chance to turn our children towards their own “superpower” of physical movement that breeds joy, resilience, and health.