Kids and exercise: What are the risks?

It’s getting warm and it’s time to head outside! understands the extreme benefit that being active has for all ages. Taking your little one to play in the park, your preteen to little league or your high school junior to a trainer, exercise at every age is very important. While we all understand the benefits, it is important to understand the risks. Listed below are many of the benefits and risks that you should be aware of as your child grows and becomes more physically active.

The benefits of regular exercise:

  • General protection against heart disease
  • 50% stroke risk reduction with ongoing regular exercise
  • Lower risk of diabetes
  • 33% to 50% decreased risk of developing hypertension
  • Lowered chance of developing osteoporosis with weight-bearing exercise
  • Less anxiety and depression
  • Weight control
  • Improved strength and function (even when started later in life)
  • Long term healthy “exercise habits” usually develop
  • Boost in self-confidence
  • Greater social benefits and networking with group or team fitness activities
  • Treatment for certain conditions (insomnia, fibromyalgia, etc.)

The concerns of regular exercise:

  • Higher rates of injury, traumatic or overuse type (especially without adequate preparation/technique/rest/supervision)
  • Overtraining syndrome (similar to chronic fatigue)
  • Heart attack or arrhythmia
  • Dehydration
  • Development of a too low body fat percent
  • Inefficient use of time (such as when poorly planned or organized)

Awareness and education is a great first step. The benefits are clear and the risks can be minimized with good, consistent medical attention. Make sure to discuss your child’s fitness activity on a yearly basis with his or her doctor. When choosing a new sport, it is always a good idea to have a physical conducted to ensure that your child is ready to participate.

When you meet with your physician, make sure that a thorough screening history and focused physical is completed. Included in this should be all of the necessary questions and examinations to ensure that there are no underlying cardiac, respiratory or other health issues. In addition to this review, there should be an assessment of blood pressure, heart rate, height and weight and other tests may be necessary.

When it comes to exercise, it is important to teach your kids to listen to their bodies and to get adequate rest between sessions. If symptoms of injury or overtraining (such as pain, inflammation, fatigue, etc.) become apparent, consult with your doctor. Knowing how to monitor fluid status not only by thirst (a poor indicator) but more importantly by the amount of sweat, time exercised, or actual difference between pre- and post-exercise weight is critical to protecting their health as well.

Exercise for all of us is an essential tool that we can use to fight disease. Ensuring that you and your family are ready physically is an easy step that will help prevent injury. In addition to medical support and preparation, don’t forget how important nutrition is to physical fitness success as well. We are what we eat!

Photo credit: Flickr user pocketwiley. Used with permission through Creative Commons.

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