Parenting Tools | Active Kids

Running Toward the Bed: Kids, Exercise and Sleep

By Malia Jacobson

soccerDoes your child camp out on the sofa after school? If he's a baby, does he spend most of his time strapped to something or someone? Does she live in a stroller or baby carrier?If so, you’re not a lousy parent; you’re a normal one. Oddly enough, our modern on-the-go lifestyle often means parents are constantly on the go, while kids are carted around and entertained instead of moving their own bodies.

All this immobility doesn’t do anything to help kids sleep. Humans were designed to move all day long. Is it any wonder that our rhythms fall out of sync when we don’t move enough? Physical activity promotes deep, restful sleep and is important for children of all ages, beginning at birth (yes, birth).

According to research published inArchives of Disease in Childhood, kids who participate in vigorous exercise fall asleep faster and sleep longer at night. In fact, the scientists concluded that each hour of inactivity costs a child three minutes of sleep at night.

In another study published in Obesity, sleep-disordered, overweight kids ages 7-11 completed a 3-month program with 40 minutes of daily exercise. For 80 percent of these kids, sleep problems disappeared completely.

To support healthy sleep, make sure kids of all ages have plenty of opportunity to move their bodies.

  • For brand-new babies, this means ample time on their tummies and on their backs when they can look around, work their neck muscles, and wiggle their arms and legs.
  • Older babies should have plenty of crawling practice and walking practice.
  • Whenever possible, let new walkers toddle alongside you when you go for a walk instead of strapping them into a carrier or a stroller.
  • Older children should exercise for thirty to sixty minutes per day. They can do that in a variety of ways, like playing kickball, raking leaves, or taking a bike ride.
  • Don’t let bad weather sideline you. If it’s pouring out, break out the Wii, find a local climbing wall or indoor pool, or visit the local skating rink.

Malia Jacobson is a nationally published freelance writer who blogs about parenting and health at, where this post originally appeared.

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