At the same time, both Adesman and Ruggero emphasized that fitness confers other advantages.
"Fitness is, in its own right, an appropriate goal for children, especially in a time when we have an obesity epidemic in our country starting in childhood," Adesman said.
A healthier weight, fewer risk factors for heart disease later in life and, according to some research, better academic performance are all additional benefits of improved fitness, Ruggero added.
He said children and teens are more motivated to be physically active or to participate in sports when it's fun, and they are more likely to drop out when it becomes less enjoyable or they feel more pressure. The key is to focus on improving their own skills and abilities rather than focusing on others' abilities or only outcomes, he said.
There's more on getting physically fit at President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition.
SOURCES: Camilo Ruggero, Ph.D., assistant professor, psychology, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas; Andrew Adesman, M.D., chief, developmental and behavioral pediatrics, Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York, New Hyde Park, N.Y.; Aug. 7, 2014, presentation, American Psychological Association annual meeting, Washington D.C.
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