Exercising is a wonderful way for kids (and adults) to enhance their health and to improve their physical abilities. But exercise always comes with the risk of injury or harmful stress on the body. Here are a few tips to help your child exercise safely.
If your child is participating in outdoor activities, he should dress for the temperature and humidity. In cold weather, dress your child in layers, so that as his body temperature rises, he can take off one layer at a time. In hot weather, he should wear thin, light-colored clothing. In all weather conditions, don't forget to apply sunscreen. Socks and shoes are important as well. Make sure that your child's shoes are appropriate for his activity, since different shoes serve different purposes. For example, a running shoe absorbs shock differently than a tennis shoe. Your child's socks should be able to absorb moisture from his feet and provide good cushioning.
According to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, more than 3 million children experience sports- and recreation-related injuries in the United States each year. Many of these injuries can be prevented with the use of proper equipment. Make sure that your child is wearing all the recommended forms of protective gear for her activity. This may include a helmet, goggles, shin guards, a chest protector, or knee and elbow pads. If you are unsure of what equipment is recommended, ask your pediatrician.
Children should drink a glass of water about 15 minutes before they start exercising. If they're exercising in a warm environment, they should drink a large, lukewarm glass of water every 20 minutes during the activity. Lack of water can cause dehydration. Possible signs of dehydration include nausea and lethargy. If you ignore these signs, the body may go into heat exhaustion or heatstroke.
Warming up prepares the muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, and the heart for the exercise that will follow. Children can generally warm up more quickly than adults, simply by running in place and breathing deeply for a few minutes. They should then slowly and gently rehearse the motions of the exercise for a few minutes, gradually building up speed, force, and intensity.
Cooling down properly is just as important as warming up. Give your child a few minutes to slow down her motions and lessen her intensity before stopping the exercise altogether. Wait until her skin is dry and cool to the touch before taking her into a cold, air-conditioned room, giving her ice-cold drinks, or getting her in the shower.
Sources: National SAFE KIDS Campaign; American Medical Association