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BENEFITS OF EXERCISE IN CHILDREN
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There are many reasons why children and adolescents engage in sports. The National Council of Youth Sports Survey found that 60 million children aged 6 to 18 years participate in some form of organized athletics, with 44 million participating in more than one sport. Young children engage in play primarily to develop social interactions through cooperation, sharing, or competition with children that are typically their age.

Below are some reasons why children may want to play sports:
• To have fun
• To improve skills
• To learn new skills
• To be with friends
• To make new friends
• To succeed or win
• To become physically fit

Exercise in children should be adapted to develop age-appropriate physical skill sets. School-age children engage in structured activities and sports to develop their self-concept and self-esteem. On their own, free play and exercise have many benefits for children. Older children value competition more than younger children and thus enjoy sports participation as an opportunity to work with peers toward a common goal. In adolescence, sports participation can teach the importance of setting goals and making plans to achieve those goals. It can also provide an environment where adolescents can learn core values such as discipline, respect, responsibility, fairness, and trustworthiness. Sports participation can teach children physical skills, teamwork, relationships, and leadership. Regular physical activity has been shown improve performance in school.

There are many physical benefits related to exercise in children and adolescents. Active children tend to be thinner than their less active counterparts. More active children will also have improved bone mass, and, in general, will have better fitness levels. Health-related benefits are also seen in children who exercise. Most importantly, there is improvement in cardiovascular fitness, which is key to preventing or reducing high blood pressure, obesity, Type II diabetes mellitus, and heart disease. This can have a lifelong effect into adulthood. Children who exercise are much more likely to exercise
as adults.

AMSSM Member Authors
Mark Riederer, MD and Neeru Jayanthi, MD

References
Anderson SJ and Harris S, eds. Care of the Young Athlete, 2nd ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2010.

Category: Pediatric and Adolescent Athletes,

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