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Developing physical fitness is very important for children. However, establishing regular exercise habit is of much greater importance. Physical fitness is momentary. When activity ceases, fitness begins to diminish. If activity continues, the level of fitness will remain or improve. Therefore, the more important goal for parents is to help children establish activity habits that can be continued throughout life.

Motivation from within is a key element in maintaining an active lifestyle. Generally, children are born intrinsically motivated to be physically active. Helping a child maintain this motivation can be challenging.

The primary reason, children cite for participating in sports and physical activity is "fun". The feeling of fun depends on experiencing skill improvement, personal accomplishment and excitement. Adults should constantly be evaluating a child's activity opportunities. Ensuring that a child experiences physical success, freedom and fun will contribute much to promoting lifelong fitness habits.

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What Parents Can Do to Help Children be Active

What has Physical Education Got to Do With a Good Elementary Curriculum?

Participate with your children. Parental attention is one of the biggest motivators to children of all ages. Try to focus on what they like, not what interests you.

Emphasize participation rather than performance and give liberal amounts of positive reinforcement and recognition for daily activities.

Remember to individualize. Each child has personal likes and dislikes. Don't attempt to force everyone into the same activity.

Transport your child or arrange for transportation to an organized activity or to a safe place for play.

Purchase toys that require or encourage physical activity.

Fitness and activity are for everyone. Each child can find some form of physical activity to enjoy. It does not take a lot of activity to be healthy. Encourage them to do some physical activity almost every day.

It allows children to move freely and creatively with thought and purpose.

It is NOT recess.

It can be the vital link to learning using the kinesthetic, spatial and musical modes of learning.

It develops valuable life skills such as leadership, discipline, innovation, creativity and enhanced communication.

Most importantly it gives children guidance in the areas of planning a healthy lifestyle and making the right choices.

How Much Activity is Enough?

Fitness for Mom and Dad

Children are sporadic exercisers who alternate between vigorous activity and rest. Watch your children play. They will go as hard as they can for a short period and then stop to rest. After a very brief rest, they are off again. Children are high volume exercisers who generally do not engage in continuous high intensity exercise. As you watch your child zooming around the house, the yard or the playground, you probably feel your child is getting plenty of exercise!

For years, we have used the Exercise Prescription Model (EPM) to evaluate activity. The EPM requires that activity last 20 to 30 minutes and be at an intensity of 60% - 80% of your heart rate reserve. The EPM was developed for adults and has been applied to children.

More recently, scientists have determined that moderate daily lifetime exercise, such as walking, results in a total energy expenditure of 1000 to 2000 calories per week, which is sufficient to produce health benefits. A new model has been created called the Lifetime Physical Activity Model (LPAM). It recommends accumulating, throughout the day, a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity.


The LPAM is a much more reasonable model for children suggesting that it is appropriate to establish a minimum standard of 1000 to 2000 calories per week to produce health benefits. However, it is not unreasonable to establish an optimal goal of twice that. The extended goal will allow children more active time to learn necessary motor skills.

Brevard Public Schools have recently adopted the Fitness Gram. This is a health-related fitness test. Our long term objective is to develop students who are regularly active, able to self-assess their fitness levels, interpret assessment results, plan personal programs and motivate themselves to stay healthy! The Fitness Gram assesses three components of physical fitness which have been identified as being important because of their relationship to overall health and optimal function. They are: Aerobic Capacity; Body Composition; and Muscle Strength, Endurance and Flexibility. Please check out the specifics of the test by reviewing the FitnessGram 8.3. section on this website or with your child's physical education teacher.

Physical fitness has been shown to be very beneficial in reducing the risk of death from all causes. Even moderate levels of fitness are achievable by most people are associated with this reduction in risk.

Now is the time to begin your fitness program. A recent study suggests that, regardless of your age, it is never too late to change your level of physical fitness.

Where to Begin:

If you've been inactive for some time, you will need to begin gradually. An easy activity to do with your family might be a walking program. There are many benefits to walking:

  • You already know how to walk.
  • You don't have to buy equipment or pay any fees.
  • You can walk indoors or outdoors.
  • You can get a good workout.
  • Your risk of injury is very low.
  • You don't have to change clothes.

Whatever activity you chose keep the following hints in mind:

  • Set goals and keep them in sight. Put them where you will see them every day.
  • Start slowly - five or ten minutes each day and work up from there.
  • Be realistic. It will take time for you to find ways to fit activity into your schedule.
  • Being active with your family will keep you going when you don't feel like being active.
  • Expect the unexpected. Things will happen to get you off track. Be prepared.

Remember that any physical activity counts. Something is better than nothing.