With childhood obesity rates at an all-time high, we must look at the activity levels of children and adolescents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied the amounts of time high school students spent in various activities, and the numbers are not encouraging. Clearly we need to encourage kids to go outside and play.
In 2011, only 51.8% of students attended physical education classes at least one day each week. On the other hand, 31.1% used computers three or more hours per day outside of schoolwork. And almost one-third watched television three or more hours per day.
The numbers are grim for younger children too. Authors of a study published in the journal Pediatrics found that the children averaged 26 minutes per day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity at an average of 7 years old and 24 minutes per day at an average of 9 years old. Only 6.4% of children averaged the recommended 60 minutes per day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity at age 7 and 5.7% did at age 9.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for children recommend they should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Most of this activity should be moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity that increases cardiorespiratory fitness. Also, physical activity should incorporate muscle-strengthening activities three times per week, and bone-strengthening activities should be involved three times per week as well.
Parents should encourage their kids to go outside with their friends and play. There are numerous examples of activities that kids can do with their friends that are both fun and also have aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening properties.
Children can obtain aerobic activity by riding a bicycle or walking a dog. Games with friends, such as playing tag, or more formal sports, are terrific ways to get vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Likewise, playing on playground equipment, playing tug of war, or climbing a tree are muscle-strengthening activities. Older adolescents can do push-ups, sit-ups, or more formal resistance training. Impact sports and activities, such as running, jumping rope, and formal sports like tennis and volleyball can help strengthen bones.
Patterns of low levels of activity and high levels of sedentary activity are established in childhood. These behaviors might only get worse as they get older. Let’s work to go outside and play with their friends, exercising, and playing sports to keep them healthy throughout their lives.