Engaging in regular physical activity is especially important for young children, as it builds strength and develops healthy bodies, and can even enhance academic performance. By fourth grade, some children, especially girls, may be experiencing the onset of puberty and their physical activity habits will need to keep pace with their rapidly changing bodies. Below are recommendations to help keep your fourth-grader healthy and active.
The benefits to your child of physical activity can include:
- Improved development of gross and fine motor skills
- Increased self-sufficiency and confidence
- Improvements in learning
- Better sleep
- Weight management
- Improved social skills
- Decreased time spent watching TV or playing with computers
- Decreased risk for chronic diseases later in life
60 minutes of physical activity
The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children aged 9 and 10 participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. This does not need to be 60 minutes of sustained activity at a time, but can include different episodes of activity that, together, total 60 minutes or more. Children should be engaged in a variety of activities that require different degrees of exertion. These should include vigorous activities, such as playing tag, and more moderate activities, such as brisk walking.
Vigorous physical activity
The guidelines recommend that children engage in vigorous physical activity at least three times a week.
Building muscle strength
Building muscle strength is especially important for children at this age and exercise is key to achieving this goal. Muscle-strengthening activities are those that force the muscles to do more than the normal workload. For young children, the most effective muscle-building activities include swinging from monkey bars and playing games such as tug-of-war. The guidelines recommend that children engage in muscle-strengthening activities at least three times a week.
Building bone strength
Building bone strength is also important for growing children. Bone-strengthening exercises build strength through the force that is exerted on the bones. Exercises that achieve this important goal include running, skipping rope and playing hopscotch. The guidelines recommend that children engage in bone-strengthening activities at least three times a week.
Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Dr. Natasha Burgert, Pediatrician, Pediatric Associates and Dr. Jayne Greenberg, District Director, Miami-Dade County Public Schools.