Intermountain Healthcare

Exercise for Kids Has Physical and Psychological Benefits


Salt Lake City, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 10/19/2021 --Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, families have spent more time indoors and on screens. As the weather starts to turn wetter and colder, other outdoor activities are reduced as well.

"The amount of daily physical activity is reduced," said Katrina Jensen, RN, Intermountain Healthcare. "Even before the pandemic, the dramatic rise in overweight and obese children in recent years has increased attention to the importance of physical activity."

Kids have also reported experiencing more anxiety over the past year during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Jensen. "Some reasons are less time with friends, less or no time in- person at school, more time on screens, and less time outside."

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports regular physical activity increases lean body mass, muscle, and bone strength and promotes physical health. The AAP says physical activity fosters psychological well-being, can increase self-esteem and capacity for learning, and can help children and adolescents handle stress. It also recommends children ages six to 17 engage in 60 minutes or more of physical activity per day.

"Physical activity is like your fifth vital sign," said Jensen. "Health providers routinely check your four vital signs such as your temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate. Physical activity can be thought of as the fifth vital sign for your provider to assess your health."

Jensen says parents should encourage their kids to engage in aerobic exercise that gets their heart rate up, as well as muscle-strengthening and weight bearing activities. She suggests helping them find things they like to do, so the activity isn't a chore but is sustainable. Some suggestions include:

- Walk, run, bike, hike, hop, skip, jump, climb, play games with a ball, dance to music, do sit ups or push-ups, ski, or rollerblade. Just get out, and get moving!

- Remember to maintain appropriate social distance when exercising with those outside your household.

- Remember to keep children well hydrated before, during and after exercise.

"And don't forget well-child check-ups," said Jensen. "Since the pandemic, some parents have postponed going to the doctor. It's important to schedule your well child visit and keep up you're your child's immunizations, as we look toward hopefully more in-person learning in the fall."

If parents are concerned with their children's mental well being and feel the need of immediate support -- or needs help themselves -- they are encouraged to contact the Utah Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255, 24/7). Intermountain also provides a free Behavioral Health Navigation Line (833-442-2211) seven days a week, from 7 am to 7 pm, and Connect Care for Behavioral Health also allows virtual visits with providers.

About Intermountain Healthcare
Located in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada, Intermountain Healthcare is a nonprofit system of 25 hospitals, 225 clinics, the Intermountain Medical Group with some 2,700 employed physicians and advanced care practitioners, a health plans division called SelectHealth, Homecare, and other health services. Helping people live the healthiest lives possible, Intermountain is committed to improving community health and is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes at sustainable costs. For more information, see Intermountain Healthcare or the Intermountain Healthcare Blog.