Originally published Sept. 17, 2020 by the Messenger-Inquirer.

By Seth Sharp

Being physically active has always been a staple in my life, especially during my childhood.

All kids need physical activity in their daily routine to promote healthy growth of the mind and body.

Without regular exercise and physical activity, it is hard to achieve and maintain optimal health. More emphasis should be put on physical activity now more than ever given the current situation with COVID-19.

In the past, school-age children could rely on getting a healthy amount of activity through PE classes, recess, and extracurricular activities offered through the schools.

Now with most schools having to offer learning virtually, there aren’t as many opportunities for physical activity during the school day. We have to take it upon ourselves to make sure our children get the physical activity they need. Not only does physical activity promote physical health but mental health as well.

Research has proven that physical activity stimulates the mind resulting in better concentration and alertness. This is a big deal considering most kids are learning from a computer right now. A little bit of exertion will help promote more productive online sessions and keep kids on task.

Another thing that is affected by physical activity is sleep quality. Our mind and body depend on sleep for recovery and growth.

When people are physically active, the body’s internal temperature will rise. Hours later when it’s time to rest our body’s temperature will drop easier than it would without activity.

This will promote healthier and deeper sleep patterns. Sleep plays a huge role in building strong immune systems and energy levels. Kids need 8-10 hours of sleep nightly for their bodies to grow and function at a high level. Activity can also help the mind reset after extended periods of “screen time.”

Too much time on a computer screen without physical activity can have adverse effects on sleep patterns from over stimulation making it much harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Not to mention the lack of energy and focus that will follow in the day(s) to come. This is huge since most kids have no choice but to be on a screen during the day now for school.

Going outside to play or exercise with family in the afternoon is a great way to achieve balance for children and adults alike. The best advice I can give for making sure your child is active enough is to be creative.

Being creative will make physical activity more fun and less of a chore. PE teachers have used fun games to promote physical activity and keep kids engaged for a long time and you can do the same.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to PE teachers for ideas to help keep your kids active. OPS, OCS, and DCPS have incredible PE teachers and staff and are great resources. Also, utilize media platforms like YouTube to look up ideas or make up your own!

The CDC recommends one hour or more of daily physical activity at least three days a week for children ages 6-17 years old.

Let’s do our best to keep our kids active and healthy!

Seth Sharp is the head coach and project manager for the Parisi Speed School at the Owensboro Health Healthpark.

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