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Physical Fitness for Children

Fitness for children is somewhat different than fitness for adults. There are differences in motivation and in physical capacity to adapt to and benefit from different types of activity.

While individual programs will vary, in general terms physical fitness for children ideally involves:

Being active because they want to be active – because they are confident and having fun running around and playing.

Running and moving, particularly in bursts of activity. Children don't follow the adult prescription of "maintaining your heart rate in the target zone for 30 minutes." They sprint and rest and sprint and rest. But they should accumulate substantial "total movement time" every day.

Developing competence and confidence in their motor skills. Skill and confidence influence enjoyment of activity – we all like to do things that we are good at.

Having a healthy diet. Parents are the primary influencers of a child's diet, directly controlling many of the child's food choices, especially at a young age, and then influencing those decisions moving forward.

Developing healthy habits that will last a lifetime. Good (and bad) health habits formed in childhood tend to carry over into adulthood. As a parent, you can influence your children's decisions directly, and you also play an essential part as their role model -- for better or worse -- so having a healthy, active lifestyle yourself can have a significant impact.