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3 Elements of Fitness

If you've ever watched children on a playground, you've seen the three elements of fitness in action when they:

  1. Run around playing tag (cardio)
  2. Play hopscotch (muscle & bone strength)
  3. Climb a ladder(flexibility)

Playing and being physically active are very important for children’s health. Children should engage in indoor and outdoor active play in their pre-school and at home. Besides enjoying the health benefits of regular activity, preschoolers who are physically fit have stronger muscles and bones, are less likely to become overweight and have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular diseases.

Stretching activities help maintain flexibility by allowing muscles and joints to bend and move easily through their full range of motion. Although most preschoolers are already flexible, learning to maintain healthy muscles is important. Children can begin to loose their flexibility during adolescence if they are not active. Look for opportunities every day to reach and stretch by trying to get a toy just out of reach, practicing a split, or doing a cart-wheel.

Cardio endurance is developed when children engage in short bursts of aerobic activity. During aerobic activity, the heart beats faster and a child breathes harder. Short bursts of activity such as running, jumping, swimming and riding a bike or tricycle help to strengthen the preschooler’s heart.

Improving muscle and bone strength doesn't mean lifting weights. Young children build strength best by lifting their own body weight and doing weight bearing exercises (carry their weight). Playing hopscotch, doing handstands, swinging on monkey bars, climbing and wrestling are great examples of activities that help tone and strengthen muscles.

Lindsay, A. and Byington, T. 2020, The Elements of Fitness | Fit Kids Are Healthy Kids, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-20-16

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Healthy Kids Resource Center

A one-stop shop for evidence-based research, resources, curricula, activities and materials that focus on obesity prevention for teachers and parents of young children. It is designed to educate parents and teachers as well as provide the tools needed to teach young children how to live a healthy lifestyle.