Do You Overestimate Your Kids' Daily Activity Routine?

Filed under: Big Kids, Tweens, Teens, Activities: Babies


Having worked with many kids in high-level sports over the years, I've seen my fair share of parents with either unrealistic expectations or exaggerated assessments of their kids' abilities. In the same vein, parents often see the glass as half full when it comes to assessing the amount and intensity of activity their child participates in on a daily basis. But at the end of the day, if we're convincing ourselves that our kids are doing enough daily exercise, while in reality they're not, we are only hurting their health in the long run.

According to a survey the British Heart Foundation (BHF) conducted on nearly 1000 UK parents with kids aged 8-15, seven in 10 parents (71 percent) think their children are "active enough," but only one in 10 of their children (10 percent) say they do the recommended amount of exercise.

The Surgeon General has concluded that kids need 60 minutes a day of moderate- to high-intensity activity for optimal health. This does not have to be 60 minutes of continuous activity, it can be accumulated throughout the day from a brisk walk to school, recess, gym class, after school programs, extracurricular activities and even a home training program.

What is "Moderate to High Intensity?"

Many of you may be unclear as to what constitutes moderate- to high-intensity activity. In the health and fitness field, we use target heart rate zones to define exercise intensity. If you want to be this specific, there are many heart rate monitors on the market that can measure your child's heart rate as he/she exercises. You should be looking for a number that is between 60-85 percent of their predicted maximum heart rate.

For those of you who do not want to get too technical, simply use the talk test. If your child is a little out of breath and has difficulty holding a regular conversation while exercising, then he/she is in the right intensity zone. Look for other obvious signs such as sweat, rosy cheeks and increased body temperature.

Safety Tip: Stay Hydrated

Your body cools itself by sweating during exercise. It is therefore important for your child to stay hydrated by drinking water, especially in warmer temperatures. Keep in mind that you should not wait until your child is thirsty to have them drink, as the body's thirst mechanism does not (typically) kick in until you have lost about two percent of your body weight. At this point, the body loses strength and if it continues, you are at risk of heat-related conditions such as heat stroke. Finally, try to avoid sports drinks, as many contain unnecessary calories from sugar or unhealthy artificial sweeteners.

Reggie Reyesis a certified kinesiologist and personal trainer. He is the president and founder of pt4kids a company that creates specialized training programs for kids all ages and fitness levels.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.