It’s long been established that one of the best things you can do for your health is to get regular exercise, and this holds true for children, too.  A local pediatrician, Dr. Pilar Bradshaw, says regular exercise, such as playing team sports, is a great way to develop children’s growing bodies and brains.

Several key factors enhance a child’s health and development, Dr. Bradshaw says. Getting regular physical activity is one of them, and playing team sports provides many benefits.

“That includes increasing their cardiovascular fitness, increasing the strength and health of their bones and muscles, improving their flexibility and strength.”

Sports can also boost a child’s social and mental health, which Dr. Bradshaw says is even more critical since the pandemic.

“Kids have really suffered from the isolation of COVID and so the opportunity to come together with their friends and do something fun and physically active is so important to mental health for kids.”

Research shows that participating in sports can improve feelings of inclusion, lessen feelings of loneliness, decrease depression, reduce anxiety and improve sleep, Dr. Bradshaw adds.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids get 60 minutes a day of physical activity.

Bev Smith, the executive director of Emerald Kidsports, says inclement weather months make getting enough physical activity challenging. Another barrier is a lack of indoor spaces for teams to practice their sports in our community. Compared to communities of similar size and population, Eugene-Springfield doesn’t have enough available indoor recreation spaces for kids and adults, Smith says. Even with the addition of Kidsports’ new facility at Civic Park – the demand for indoor practice and competition spaces exceeds what’s available.

“The biggest barriers to kids being active outside of schools are No. 1 financial, which we really try to help with our scholarship program,” Bev Smith says. “No. 2: access to space. I’ve always said the most competitive sport in Eugene, Oregon, is coaches trying to sign up for quality practice times. Practice times that are age appropriate for the children.”

Dr. Bradshaw says the bottom line is: healthy, active kids are more likely to become healthy, active adults, and a community that supports opportunities for kids to play and move year-round is better off in the long run.

Lane County commissioners are currently considering an indoor multi-use sports facility as part of the master plan process and redevelopment of the county’s fairgrounds in Eugene. Such a facility would provide more recreational play, exercise, practice and competition space for kids and adults in our community.

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