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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Parks & Recreation

Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland

Phone: 503-823-7529

1120 SW Fifth Avenue, Portland, OR 97204

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The Benefits of Keeping Kids Active


Pre-K BalletPhysical activity, besides tiring kids out, improves their flexibility and stamina while developing stronger bones and muscles. 

  • The American Heart Association recommends all children aged 2 and older should have at least 60 minutes of developmentally appropriate physical exercise every day.

Preschoolers, for example, should be given the opportunity to practice jumping, running, and climbing.  Play activities should be strenuous enough to induce a faster pulse and breathing along with light sweating.  Children don't need sixty consecutive minutes of exercise per day; two 30-minute play sessions or four 15-minute sessions of activity also count.

  • The American Heart Association also warns that sedentary children are more likely than active children to become inactive adults, and inactivity increases risks of health issues ranging from overweight and obesity to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.

BasketballMental Benefits

Exercise produces "feel good" chemicals called endorphins and that can improve quality of sleep.

  • According to the MedlinePlus online medical encyclopedia, children who get regular physical exercise are less likely to feel stressed, more likely to feel ready to learn in school and less likely to experience depression than children who are inactive.

Encouraging Physical Activity

  • According to, one easy way to ensure your child gets physical exercise every day is to limit their daily allowance of television, computer and video-game time to two hours.

To promote active hobbies, reward positive behavior with physical activities such trips to the pool or amusement park.  Provide children with active toys such as bats, balls, hula hoops, jump ropes, and a tricycle or bicycle.  

Habit Formation

Exercise is a habit that can be formed at any age.  However, the longer an unhealthy habit is maintained, the more difficult it is to break and substitute a new, healthy habit.  Many adults begin exercising to solve a health problem caused by a sedentary lifestyle.  If your child begins exercising early in life, they can avoid suffering these problems in the first place.  

Weight Control

  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately 17 percent of children ages 2 to 19 are obese.  As of 2008, the obesity rate rises to 33.8 percent by adulthood.

Since exercise burns calories, regular exercise can help prevent obesity in children and can prevent children of normal weight from becoming obese adults.  Since children are naturally physically active, there is no need to institute a rigorous program of exercise. Simply add structure to play periods, and limit the amount of time a child spends in front of the TV and computer.


SkateboardingSocial Development

Many healthy exercise activities are social in nature; dance classes and team sports are two examples.  The more time children spend engaging in challenging, enjoyable physical activity with other children, the more opportunities they have to develop and practice their social skills such as teamwork and sharing.  In addition, the more time an adult spends exercising with their child, the greater the opportunity to bond on a one-to-one level.



  • The New York Times reports that research performed at theUniversityofIllinoisconfirms in humans what animal testing has already suggested: that exercise can make children smarter.  Although the exact mechanism has not been identified, exercise increases the size of the basal ganglia and the hippocampus areas of the brain.  The basal ganglia are responsible for attention span and the ability to coordinate actions and thoughts, while the hippocampus is responsible for complex memory.  Even 20 minutes of walking right before an exam can raise your child's score.

- Blaine Rethmeier, Sports Instructor, Camp Director & League Coach


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