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NZREPs share some of the latest research highlighting the benefits of exercise for children

NZREPs share some of the latest research highlighting the benefits of exercise for children
March 2, 2021

The New Zealand Register of Exercise Professionals (NZREPs) share some of the latest research that highlights the benefits of exercise for children.

NZREPs note “It’s true that children don’t come with an instruction manual. The exception may be when it comes to exercise and physical activity. It doesn’t take lots of research to know that active children are happier, sleep better and have more energy in the long term. However, with so much advice bombarding parents around everything children related, we have wrapped up some of the latest research on young people and exercise to keep you up to date.”

Clumsy kids

With sport and games being one of the main childhood activities that keep children moving, it is a worry for parents with less coordinated or physically able children that physical skill and physical fitness seem to go hand in hand. A recent study out of Finland has found that aerobic fitness and advanced motor skills do not necessarily go together, and previous perceptions of the ‘clumsy, overweight’ kid are incorrect. Researchers noted that “aerobic fitness was not strongly associated with overweight or obesity. Therefore, it seems that the role of poor aerobic fitness as a risk factor for poor motor skills and excess body weight has been strongly exaggerated."

The fit body = fit brain connection starts early

A study out of Illinois University found that there was a link between pre-school children who were fit enough to walk longer distances and those who rated highly in cognitive tests. Previous studies proved the link in adults, but this study showed that the relationship between physical and mental fitness begins at a young age.

Researchers from the University of Granada (UGR) have proven that physical fitness in children may affect their brain structure, which in turn may have an influence on their academic performance. The researchers have confirmed that physical fitness in children (especially aerobic capacity and motor ability) is associated with a greater volume of grey matter in several cortical and subcortical brain regions.

Exercise motivation in teenagers

A University College London (UCL) led study in England has found that more teenagers are worrying about their weight and actively dieting to reduce than in previous decades, while their physical activity levels have remained similar. The concern with this increase is the link between early dieting behaviours and eating disorders and depression. While maintaining a healthy weight has benefits, achieving this through restricted eating and a negative mindset leads to potentially more damaging health concerns. Another worrying trend was that the researchers discovered that while exercise levels remained the same over the decades, adolescents’ motivation for exercise had changed, with an increase of exercise being related to losing weight.

Any safe activity and physical movement is positive, but as many parents have discovered, more and more there is competition for getting active. Nearly half of children aged 5-14 years (53%) watch two or more hours of television a day, and this time increases into the teen years. This means we cannot just assume children will stay active. Just as we plan time to exercise and engage in physical activity, we need to make sure this happens for our children too.

For more information on NZ Register of Exercise Professionals go to

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25th October 2016 - NZREPs highlights the real cost of physical inactivity

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