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Keep Moving for You and Your Children

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I am greatly impressed by the number of parents who are athletes in my son’s class. We have several accomplished marathoners, triathletes, cyclists, swimmers and runners. Our public school is home to many parents who exercise regularly. What great role models! While training for a triathlon or marathon is not for everyone, moving your body on a daily basis is necessary to remain healthy. But why is exercise important? Here are some of the reasons as a parent you will want to take a brisk (pump up your heart) walk in the park based on recent scientific studies:

Some common qualities are:

  • Exercise reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and some cancers in women.
  • Men who exercise have a reduced risk of dying from both cardiovascular disease and cancer.
  • Aerobic exercise helps overweight adults with high blood pressure lower their blood pressure, as well as improve their overall cardiovascular response to mental stress, another risk factor for heart disease.
  • Being out of shape increases the risk of premature death including risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.
  • Exercise may be protective against the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Those who took brisk walks 45 minutes three times per week for 6 months performed substantially better on several cognitive tasks than those who did stretching or strengthening exercises.
  • Regular exercise is one of the best ways to combat daily stress.
  • Exercise may be effective in reducing the perception of pain, even among those with chronic pain in the lower back.
  • Being active may reduce the number of colds people get each year.
  • Exercisers were perceived to be healthy, muscular and sexually attractive, while non-exercisers were perceived to be sickly, scrawny, and sexually unattractive.

Many of these studies found that the improvements were attributed to cardio exercise (exercise that increases your heart rate) rather than stretching and strength training. However, stretching and strength training should also be a part of your exercise routine. Keeping your body flexible will reduce the risk of injuries while strength training is important for maintaining muscle mass, reducing the risk of bone disease and improving your metabolism.

Science aside, the best reason we parents should exercise, is so that we can be good role models for our children. Those children who see their parents leave the apartment early to go to the gym or park before work, understand that exercise is something that should be incorporated into your life. It demonstrates that it is an ordinary part of life to move the body daily.

Why should children be active? A child who is active will have stronger muscles and bones, be less likely to become overweight, decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, possibly lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and have a better outlook on life. Kids who are physically fit sleep better and are better able to handle the physical and emotional challenges that a typical day presents – whether it is running to get to school on time, bending down to tie a shoe, or concentrating in class. For kids, “exercise” can be as easy as running around the playground, playing ball or tag with their friends, or riding their bike with their mom or dad. So keep moving for your own health and the health of your children. For more on the benefits of exercise for children, see Kids at Play.


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About the Author

Reyna is a New York City-based registered dietitian-nutritionist (RDN) with a masters of science (MS) in nutrition and exercise physiology from Teachers College, Columbia University. She also has a masters of business administration (MBA) from New York University. She works in private practice, combining a holistic approach with science-based nutrition and exercise research. When Reyna is not coaching clients, performing workshops or writing articles, you may find her bicycling, running, swimming, skiing, rock–climbing or having fun with her husband and son.

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