It’s well recognized that exercise is a very important part of health. Exercise increases the feeling of well-being and extends a healthy life span. It has recently been demonstrated that all children benefit from regular exercise. The benefit is a sense of just feeling good and also in the classroom performing better academically. Sometimes it seems hard to find the time to “exercise,” but it doesn’t have to be in a gym — but outside playing.

In there’s a discussion of the types of exercise and their benefits. Aerobic exercise is any activity that’s continuous that will increase the heart rate and the breathing rate. These activities could include games such as tag, “red rover,” bicycling, swimming, basketball or volleyball, in-line skating, soccer, brisk walking, hiking, skateboarding, etc. Regular aerobic exercise improves the efficiency of the cardiorespiratory system so that the heart and lungs can meet the needs of the body.

Aerobic exercise also affects body weigh composition by burning excess calories that otherwise would be converted to fat. The more aerobic an activity the more calories expended. Walking at a moderate pace burns calories, but running would double the amount of energy spent. Children like to run, while most adults would prefer to walk. Both are healthy.

Weight training is recommended for children ages 8 and older and under the supervision of a trained adult. Muscle strength refers to the ability to move a load, and muscle endurance is the ability to sustain that movement over a period of time. Males will not be able to develop large muscles until after puberty. Females generally aren’t able to develop large muscle mass and don’t have to worry about getting too muscular.

The proper technique for weight training has been shown that young people gain strength and endurance faster with less weight and more repetitions. Teens should always be supervised by a qualified adult who can help them and demonstrate proper technique. It’s safer to work out at school or in a health club. Resistance training is a small part of a well-round exercise program.

Exercise should be daily — but remember not to overdo it. Excessive physical exercise can lead to injuries, and for females if their weight falls too low can cause menstrual abnormalities. If there’s pain after exercising consult your health care provider. Getting into shape can take time and will be enjoyed more if not overdone.

As always, drink plenty of fluids and be careful in hot steamy weather.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.

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