Doctors have long touted the benefits of regular exercise, but not until more recently have they found a direct correlation between the amount of physical activity that children get and their overall health. Like their adult counterparts, children simply don’t get enough exercise. With the advent of Internet-connected everything, what once used to allow time for outside, recreational play, has since been replaced by a sedentary lifestyle. This is true for children as young as six years old as well.

Doctors recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of regular physical activity per week. In addition to computer-centric activities, school systems nationwide have been forced to make drastic cuts to the physical education programs. Some have eliminated PE and recess altogether. In some parts of the country, only about 15% of schools offer physical education at least three days per week. These factors in addition to other lifestyle choices lend to an increase in serious health problems like heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and other issues.

Science has now proven that regular exercise has many benefits for people of all ages, but especially for children. For instance, it helps to build strong muscles and bones. It improves the aging process by easing some symptoms. It can boost your mood. That’s not to mention the increased muscle mass and flexibility and elevated levels of energy.

The United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) has begun to perform a major study that will focus on what happens when a body is in motion through exercise. It is designed to prove once and for all that regular exercise is good medicine.

This six-year-long project will include a group of 3000 mostly sedentary people between the ages of eleven and elderly folks. They’ll have a full medical workup before the project begins. Their blood, fat, and muscle mass will be studied before and after every workout. They’ll break up the large group into two: a group that doesn’t work out and the group that does to measure the differences.

The hope is that this study will help doctors prescribe a detailed workout plan for their patients that won’t be taxing on their joints and muscles and won’t cause any other longterm problems. With specific measurements in mind, they hope to be able to lead the way and guide their patients to better health and wellness, regardless of their age or socioeconomic status.

Unlike diets that force you to eat certain foods and restrict calories, this study hopes to devise an individualized plan for their young patients. That includes giving them the tools they need to restore muscles that may have become weak due to non-activity or injury and to make regular exercise a habit that they will benefit from for many years to come.

In time, they hope that schools and parents will see the importance of regular exercise and will advocate having physical education and recess added back into the normal school day because exercise is the best medicine for a healthy body.

By Eileen Smith