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Fitness and Your 6- to 12-year-old

Kids who enjoy sports and exercise tend to stay active throughout their lives. And staying fit can help improve your child's self-esteem and decrease the risk of serious illnesses (such as heart disease and stroke) later in life.

In addition, regular physical activity at any age can help your child learn to play and meet challenges. Part of helping your child commit to fitness may include becoming a positive role model by regularly exercising on your own or with your child. Coaching your child's team or cheering from the stands on game days are other ways you can show your support.

Physical Fitness and Chronic Health Conditions
A child with a chronic health condition or disability should not be excluded from fitness activities. Some activities may need to be modified or adapted, and some may be too risky depending on your child's condition. Consult your child's doctor about which activities are safe for your child.

Fitness for My Child
As children develop, so do their abilities to participate in a variety of sporting activities. Kids in this age group have the ability to learn new skills required for both team and individual sports quickly.

Even children who prefer not to participate in organized team sports need regular exercise. Any number of noncompetitive sports, such as swimming, ice- skating, gymnastics, and dance, can help keep your child healthy and fit.

At about age 11, your child may also be interested in learning how to strength train (under supervision) to build muscle and help prevent sports injuries.

I'm Concerned About My Child's Fitness
If your child refuses to play or interact with peers, it can be an indication of a physical or psychological problem. If your child complains of pain or consistently refuses to join other children in sports or exercise, contact your child's doctor.

Once kids begin to participate in sports, injuries may occur from the overuse of certain muscles or because your child's skeletal and muscular systems are not yet fully developed. These growing muscles, ligaments, and tendons are vulnerable to injury.

During puberty, kids experience a growth spurt when bones grow more quickly than muscles and tendons, making muscles and tendons short, tight, and prone to injury. In addition, kids going through puberty may also become less coordinated as they adjust to their physical changes, which can increase the risk of injury. Although many injuries will respond to RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation), if your child is in severe pain or the injury doesn't seem to be getting any better, contact your child's doctor. Appropriate warm-ups and stretching exercises can help decrease the chance of muscle and tendon injury.

Young athletes, particularly those involved in gymnastics, wrestling, or dance, may develop eating disorders. If your child refuses to eat certain food groups (such as fats), becomes overly concerned with body image, or experiences a sudden change in weight, talk to your child about your concerns. If your child doesn't respond to your discussion, consult your child's doctor. Early intervention is vital.

Family Fitness Tips
Walking, bike riding, camping, and hiking provide opportunities for fitness and fun for the entire family. Sports such as tennis, skiing, dancing, ice-skating, and hiking can offer your child a chance to build skills in sports that can provide pleasure and fitness for a lifetime.


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