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Regular exercise can play a key role in helping your child stay healthy or get healthier. Exercise can be an important part of treating many medical problems, such as hypertension, sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, diabetes, and high blood-fat levels (especially high levels of low-density cholesterol).

Regular exercise also can help improve your child's body image and increase the child's energy level. It can help control weight, reduce stress, and protect the child from heart and blood-vessel disease.

After obtaining a medical history and performing a physical examination, your doctor may address four components of your child's exercise "prescription."

TYPE OF EXERCISE -- Popular ones include brisk walking, swimming, bike riding, jogging.
FREQUENCY OF EXERCISE -- It's best for the child to start at about three exercise sessions per week, then increase gradually to four, five, or more.
DURATION OF EXERCISE -- The ideal duration is 30 minutes of continuous activity. It's best to begin with 10 or 15 minutes and increase as your child's tolerance for exercise improves.
INTENSITY OF EXERCISE -- This component varies greatly depending on your child's age, sex, and medical condition. If your doctor prescribes an exercise program, there will be specific instructions that uniquely apply to your child after a physical checkup.

Instructions for your child:

  • Fit exercise into your normal daily schedule.
  • Exercise regularly--increase your pace gradually.
  • Recruit a friend to make exercise fun.
  • Consider trying out for sports teams at your school.
  • Vary your activity. Alternate forms of exercise to avoid boredom.
  • Increase exercise in easy, day-by-day activities. Walking up a flight of stairs to your classes in school is good exercise, as is riding a bicycle with friends after school.

    An exercise is aerobic if it provides your child with the following:

  • Sustained physical activity that uses major muscle groups of the body.
  • Regulated intensity, long-duration exercise for 20 minutes or more.

    Medical experts recommend aerobic exercise as a good program for achieving and main- taining cardio-pulmonary-vascular fitness--strong and healthy heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Proper aerobic benefit is based on sufficient exercise to accelerate the child's heart rate to a prescribed level and keep it there a certain length of time. Most exercise routines call for aerobic sessions three to five times per week for maximum benefit.

    The best forms of aerobic exercise for your child include brisk walking, swimming, bike riding, jogging, rope jumping, and rowing. Sports such as tennis and golf have good recreational effects, but they do not require enough effort to reach sustained aerobic levels.

    Good sources for additional reading about aerobics include The New Aerobics by Dr. Kenneth Cooper, a recognized international authority on the subject. MuscleAerobics: The Ultimate Workout For Body Shaping, by Patricia Patano and Linette Savage, pub-lished by The Body Press, is a new approach that combines aerobics with the use of body-shaping hand weights.

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