Exercise is good for everyone
For children, now home from school for three or more weeks, and for all people who have stopped working outside, this period is characterized by confinement between the domestic walls: long hours to spend at home, with all the difficulties that this can entail. In this very exceptional situation, the Istituto Superiore di Sanità reminds us how essential it is for everyone - from just a few months old children to the elderly over 65 - to maintain a lifestyle that is as regular as possible and with adequate physical activity.
L'daily exercise, in fact, it reduces the risk of developing overweight, obesity, promotes a good functioning of the musculoskeletal system and promotes mental well-being, improving sleep quality, mood, self-esteem and helping to manage stress, anxiety and frustration. For the little ones, moreover, it is generally a lot of fun. Here then is a series of ISS advice on which and how much physical activity to perform, age by age.
During childhood and pre-adolescence, physical exercise, understood as movement game, has a priority role for health. In addition to being fun - underlines the ISS document - it contributes to improving physical health conditions and promoting psychological well-being, it is essential for the sensory and motor development also influencing skills such as creativity, problem solving, body and emotional awareness, language, cognitive and social skills.
Read also: The skills of the newborn: all the skills of the first days and weeks of life
The baby needs move freely in an educational and controlled play environment; for this reason it is advisable to limit the moments of inactivity (for example sitting on a high chair or bouncer) to no more than one hour a day, except when the child is asleep.
According to the World Health Organization, babies up to one year old should be physically active several times during the day, taking advantage of the various waking occasions. Toddlers, who still have limited mobility, can be placed on their stomach several times a day for about 30 minutes in total. Other recommended activities:
- make sensory panels and treasure baskets for manipulation;
- dance gently with your baby in your arms, being careful to support his head;
- promote skin-to-skin contact.
The ISS document explains: "Before the baby starts crawling it is important to encourage him to be active by reaching, rolling, pulling, pushing and learning to move his head, arms, legs and body." Recommended activities:
- favor the free play on a soft mat to stimulate motor skills and body contact with other objects and individuals;
- place the baby on the tummy for a short time every day;
- place the baby on the soft mat by placing a toy just out of his reach so that the baby can try to reach it.
Also according to the WHO, children of this age group should spend at least 180 minutes in different types of moderate to vigorous physical activity during the day. Recommended activities:
- encourage the child to mimic the movements of the animal world: crawl like a snake, jump like a frog, gallop like a horse or walk like a four-legged bear;
- create home "psychomotor" courses. The child moves around barefoot in the house and can be asked to cross / overcome some physical obstacles, such as wooden cubes, boxes, soft rugs, cylinders, etc.
- make the child walk (one foot after the other) on a thread of colored tape or paper placed on the floor; to increase the difficulty you can make requests such as scratching your head, or walking with your eyes closed;
- set up a home bowling with milk bottles and tennis balls;
- glue strips of adhesive tape to the floor, approximately 1-2 adult paces apart. On each strip put the image of an animal jumping (the frog, the kangaroo, the monkey, the rabbit, etc.), the child will have to imitate the type of jump to reach the next strip.
For children of all ages
Some transversal activities, important for development, are suitable for all age groups:
- free movement: dancing, jumping, somersaulting, stretching, to improve movement coordination;
- music to promote movement / coordination and stimulate language, learning;
- drawing and manipulation with modeling pastes to stimulate creativity, fine motor skills and sensory aspects
- common reading aloud and then autonomous to stimulate language, learning and interaction.
You should spend at least 180 minutes in various types of physical activity, including at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity activity, throughout the day. Recommended activities:
- jump the rope: with a soft carpet and a rope create an obstacle to jump.
- alligator game: scatter some "islands" or "boats" on the floor (using cushions, stuffed animals, books, etc.) and make children jump from one object to another, the aim is not to fall "into the water" and risk being eaten by the hungry alligator, impersonated by the parent.
- mirror game: stand in front of the child, about a foot away, and invite him to copy all the movements. Stretch your arms to the sky, forward and to the side, run in place, imitate a monkey, a frog or any animal. Changing roles is now the adult who copies the child's movements.
- organize one domestic treasure hunt that you try to cover all the rooms of the house.
- find the shape: create shapes (squares, circles, etc.), letters or numbers on the floor with tape. Ask the child to ask about the preferred shape. Give imaginative instructions to reach the other shapes (for example: "crawl like a snake towards the letter B", "jump like a kangaroo on the circle", "Run towards number 3", etc.).
- musical letters: a variant of the previous game, it consists in putting a rhythmic music to dance. Stop the music and say one of the letters, shapes or numbers. The child must find the indicated letter, shape or number and sit on it;
- the pillow dance: place a pillow on the floor, play rhythmic music and start dancing, one of the players says "pillow". Whoever gets to sit on the pillow first wins;
- fly balloon: to inflate a colorful balloon, players will have to hit the balloon by throwing it into the air as if they were playing tennis, but without dropping it to the ground. You can count out loud how many times the balloon is hit and try to break the record;
- reach for the balloon: hang a balloon with a rope on the door, higher than the child's arm length, then challenge him to touch the balloon with his hand. Count how many jumps you can make by touching the balloon;
- obstacle course: Create a fun obstacle course that includes several movements (jumping, crawling, walking a line with one foot, zigzagging, etc). To create the path, hula-hoops, duct tape, pillows, blankets or mats to roll on, glasses or plastic bottles as obstacles can be used to create a zigzag path;
- basket: you can create a home basket with laundry baskets, baskets or rigid bags and play with a soft ball (also made with newspaper sheets, soft toys or rolled up socks);
- Bell: This classic game can easily be adapted to indoor environments by using scotch tape to draw the bell on the floor. Instead of stones, buttons or rolled up socks can be used.
According to the WHO, children and teens ages 5 to 11 should play every day at least 60 minutes of physical activity moderate to vigorous intensity, plus activities to strengthen the musculoskeletal system at least 3 times a week. Recommended activities:
- potato rush: make a certain number of potatoes (or balloons) available to each player. Everyone has to put the potato between their knees and run to a finish line, where they drop it into a bowl or basket. If the potato is dropped on the way, you need to go back to the start and try again. Whoever runs out of potatoes first wins;
- amusement jar: create cards by writing funny actions and movements on each one: "pretend to be in a rock band for 2 minutes", "push the wall for 30 seconds", etc. Put the cards in a container, each player draws one and makes the indicated movement;
- chain of movements: a person starts the game by making a movement of his choice, the next player makes the first movement and adds another, and so on for each player, forming a chain of movements. It continues until the sequence of the chain is interrupted (by mistake or by forgetfulness). The last player who correctly performs all movements in the sequence is the winner;
- dance party: put on a cheerful and energizing music and go to dance;
- ice skating: clearing an area of the room and pretending to slide on ice, for example with wool socks.
In this emergency situation the risk for adolescents of spending too much time in front of a screen (TV, playstation, PC, smartphone, tablet) is very high. So green light to physical activity, even at home. Recall that for adolescents, at least one hour a day of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity is typically recommended, plus activities to strengthen the musculoskeletal system at least 3 times a week.
Transversal activities, important for development: free movement (dancing, jumping, stretching), playing with siblings or with parents or other people living in the house; music and reading to promote learning and relaxation; drawing and painting to stimulate creativity; carrying out some housework such as dusting, vacuuming, setting / clearing the table, making the bed and tidying up the room, washing the windows, taking care of the garden or terrace.
- gymnastics with music and various types of dance such as Mango, Zumba, Move Up & Down, Bandera, To Tango with tutorial or video chat;
- jump rope and run on the spot;
- abdominals from lying on the ground;
- training with the step, using a step of the house stairs or books as a substitute;
- exercises with objects that you have at home, for example a broom to do shoulder exercises; a chair in front of a table to do leg exercises; a pack of long pasta to do shoulder and arm exercises;
- squat (push-up on the legs);
- push-ups and bridges for the buttocks;
- game with exergame (video games that involve both fun and physical activity)
For a daily workout, the following activities could be carried out using also resources available on the web:
- start with warm-up and muscle strengthening;
- perform joint mobility exercises;
- perform exercises to train and strengthen the muscles;
- finish with a 5-10 minute stretch.
What can parents do to promote physical activity at this age?
- Lead by example, if the parents are active, the children will be too.
- Encourage them to get regular exercise or to gradually start moving.
- Create safe places in which they can train.
- Restrict the use of televisions, PCs, tablets and mobile phones up to a maximum of 2 hours per day, in addition to the time necessary for carrying out the teaching activity.
- Try to enforce the usual sleep times.
According to WHO adults should play every week at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous activity. Aerobic activity should be performed in sessions lasting at least 10 minutes continuously. In addition, a strengthening activity of the main muscle groups should be practiced 2 or more days a week.
Inactive adults should start exercising gradually, increasing duration, frequency and intensity from time to time. Of course, these recommendations are of interest to healthy adults, unless specific medical conditions indicate otherwise.
Some examples of recommended activities:
- free movement: dance, stretching;
- domestic activities such as: vacuuming, washing floors and windows, taking care of the garden or terrace, dusting, making the beds and tidying up the house, setting / clearing the table, cooking;
- reading even while walking around the house (taking care to free up the space so as not to stumble);
- interruption of the time you sit or lie down at least every 30 minutes with active breaks about 2-3 minutes, doing stretching exercises or walking if you are on the phone (you can help yourself with a sound reminder);
- carrying out exercises of relaxation as a seated meditation;
- aerobic activity such as walking or running in place, step training, rope jumping, use of the exercise bike (if available);
- exercises of muscle strengthening such as back extensions, squats, bridges, biceps flexions, abs.
All of the details in the ISS card.
65 years and over
In order to limit boredom and sedentary lifestyle and to facilitate the maintenance of cognitive abilities, the ISS suggests some general activities, to be carried out taking into consideration the different living conditions of each person.
- domestic activities such as vacuuming, washing floors and windows, taking care of the garden or terrace, dusting, making beds and tidying up the house, setting / clearing the table, cooking;
- dance, even in pairs if possible;
- read books or periodicals.
- listening to music;
- playing puzzles, playing cards and, if you live with other people, even board games.
- at least every 30 minutes of the time you are sitting or lying down, stop doing it active breaks about 2-3 minutes, such as simple stretching exercises or walking if you are on the phone (you can help yourself with a sound reminder).
- carry out exercises of relaxation such as sitting meditation;
- Easy muscle strengthening, flexibility and balance exercises are also recommended.
All of the details in the ISS card.
- physical activity
- physical exercise