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Vigorous physical activity needed for our kids

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Posted: Monday, June 20, 2011 10:00 am

The NFL recently started a program called Play 60. It uses public service announcements to encourage 60 minutes of play everyday. The program promotes the national guidelines for children that recommend at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. The recommended activity can come from any of the five different types of physical activity in the Physical Activity Pyramid. But for optimal health benefits, some of the activity should be vigorous in nature. Vigorous activity includes vigorous aerobic activity and vigorous sports and recreation.

In the Physical Activity Pyramid for Kids (Source: Fitness for Life Elementary School, Human Kinetics, 2010, used by permission), aerobic means "with oxygen." Activities for which the body can supply enough oxygen to continue performing for a sustained period of time are "aerobic." So typing, playing the piano and walking are "aerobic" activities. Vigorous aerobic activities require the heart to beat faster than normal and are typically four to seven times more intense than sitting at rest. Jogging, aerobic dance and lap swimming are examples. For optimal benefits youth should follow the FIT formula for vigorous aerobics. F is for frequency (at least three days a week), I is for intensity (the heart rate should be elevated and breathing rate should increase) and T is for time (20 minutes, or more).

Vigorous sports and recreational activities provide another option. Sports and recreational activities, like vigorous aerobics, are four to seven times more intense than resting. Many sports activities such as basketball and soccer include both aerobic activity and anaerobic activity. Anaerobic activities are so intense that the body cannot supply enough oxygen to sustain performance for more than a minute. Examples include sprints up and down the court or soccer field. Sports are often intermittent involving some aerobic activity, some anaerobic activity, and brief periods of rest (during free shots, for example). As long as play is relatively continuous, vigorous sports can be considered similar to vigorous aerobics and use the same FIT formula.

Vigorous recreational activities sometimes are intermittent (downhill skiing, for example) and sometimes continuous, as are vigorous aerobics (cross country skiing or hiking, for example). Again, the same FIT formula applies as used for vigorous aerobics.

Vigorous physical activities provide added health benefits to those provided by moderate activities such as walking. Vigorous physical activities, that follow the FIT formula, also improve cardiovascular fitness, muscular endurance and expend calories to promote healthy weight maintenance.

Some suggestions for helping kids get their three days of vigorous activity each week are listed below.

• Find others interested in doing vigorous aerobic and vigorous recreational activities with you. Social support from friends and family has been shown to be very effective in promoting regular activity. Jog, swim, hike or bike with friends or family. Schedule a regular time and stick to it.

• Join a sports team or club. Some sports involve more activity and less standing than others. Be sure that at least 20 minutes of each session involves vigorous activity (follow the FIT formula). The YMCA and other groups often sponsor summer sports activities.

• Consider sports that do not require large numbers of people. Sports that you can do with small groups (tennis, for example) are more likely to be done on a regular basis.

• Contact local organizations to get more information. Contact the parks and recreation department about opportunities for hiking and backpacking. Schools and universities often have summer activities for youth.

• Take summer precautions. Arizona summers are hot and dry. Be sure to use sunscreen, wear protective clothing, drink plenty of water and take periodic rests, especially when performing outdoor activities.

Ahwatukee Foothills resident Dr. Charles B. "Chuck" Corbin is professor emeritus at Arizona State University, author of more than 90 books on fitness and activity, and was the first chair of the President's Council on Physical Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition Science Board. For more information on the National Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, go to

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