Children are increasingly becoming less active. Lack of physical activity in childhood leads to increased risk of being overweight or obese in adulthood, as well as obesity-related health problems. Help your child to embrace a healthy lifestyle by enrolling them in sports activities that they enjoy, and by pointing out the benefits of physical activity.
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Lack of exercise for children can have many negative effects. In addition to being more likely to be overweight, children who don't get enough exercise have weaker muscles and bones than kids who exercise regularly. Inactive kids also have increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, may have higher blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels and tend to have a more dismal outlook on life, according to KidsHealth.org.
Children don't engage in enough physical activity for a variety of reasons, including intrapersonal, interpersonal, institutional and environmental barriers, according to a 2011 study in the American College of Sports Medicine's Health and Fitness Journal. Examples of intrapersonal barriers include fear of being teased about weight or preferring to do other activities, such as playing video games. Interpersonal barriers can include having friends who are inactive or family obligations. An example of an institutional barrier is a heavy school workload. Environmental barriers could include poor weather or lack of transportation. The most common barriers include lack of time, little interest and environmental barriers, according to a 2003 study in "Obesity Research." Overweight children and adolescent girls are more likely to report body-consciousness as being a barrier. To help eliminate these barriers, parents can encourage their children to participate in physical activity, engage in activity with them and transport them to sports activities.
Physical activity among children drops sharply between the ages of 9 and 15, according to a 2008 study published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association." Nine-year-old children averaged about three hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity on weekdays and weekends, while 15-year-old children got just 49 minutes per weekday, and 35 minutes per weekend, on average. Philip Nader, M.D., Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California at San Diego and study-coauthor, suggested that schools should provide daily physical education and local governments should provide walking and biking routes to school.
The CDC recommends that children and adolescents do 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day. Parents should encourage their child to work on strength, endurance and flexibility. Children can build endurance through aerobic activities such as basketball, bicycling, skating and soccer. They can build strength with traditional toning exercises, such as pushups or pullups, and through play activities, such as climbing or gymnastics. Let your child choose activities he prefers so he'll be more likely to stick with them. Limit time spent playing video games, watching television or using the Internet. Practice healthy lifestyle habits of your own because your child views you as a role model.
- KidsHealth.org: Kids and Exercise
- Nature.com: Overweight Children's Barriers to and Support for Physical Activity
- CDC: Physical Activity for Everyone
- NIH News: Children’s Physical Activity Drops From Age 9 to 15, NIH Study Indicates
- American College of Sports Medicine Health and Fitness Journal: Overcoming Barriers to Physical Activity: Helping Youth Be More Active