Technology has certainly changed our lives over the past two decades. There was a time when watching television was the main thing that kept kids indoors on a beautiful sunny spring day. Today there are the added temptations of hand-held video games, DVD movies, and the omnipresent home computer. All of these technological marvels have also contributed to a nationwide epidemic of sedentary children. What appears to be a short simple game, in time, grows and evolves into hours of highly focused attentionat the expense of exercise. In fact, The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports states that among children and teens, almost nine million are overweighttriple the proportion in 1980. More than ten percent of children between the ages of two and five are overweight, double the percentage reported in 1980. In addition, only about one-half of U.S. young people (twelve to twenty-one years old) regularly participate in vigorous physical activity, and twenty-five percent reported no vigorous physical activity.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “All adolescents should be physically active daily, or nearly every day, as part of play, games, sports, work, transportation, recreation, physical education, or planned exercise in the context of family, school, and community activities.” The Academy goes on to add that adolescents should engage in three or more sessions per week of activities lasting twenty minutes or more and requiring moderate to vigorous levels of exertion.
When it comes to exercise and kids, there is also more to be gained than just the physical benefits. According to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, a well-planned, well-implemented physical education program can:
- Improve physical fitness
- Reinforce knowledge learned in other subject areas such as science, math, and social studies
- Facilitate development of student self-discipline and responsibility for health and fitness
- Develop motor skills that allow for safe, successful, and satisfying participation in physical activities
- Give children the opportunity to set and strive for personal, achievable goals.
- Influence moral development by providing students with opportunities to assume leadership, cooperate with others, and accept responsibility for their own behavior
- Help children become more confident, assertive, independent, and self-controlled
- Provide an outlet for releasing tension and anxiety
- Help children socialize with others more successfully
There is an answer to this epidemic of inactivityget your family motivated and plan activities that get all members moving on a regular basis. Walking, bicycling, running, swimming, jogging, organized sports and just plain-old regular playtime can help break the sedentary cycle. The American Academy of Pediatrics adds, “Any form of physical activity that is regular, enjoyable, and sustainable is the desired endpoint.”
Remember, the habits we start early in life tend to stay with us in our ensuing years. Help your kids develop a healthy mind and body for a lifetimeget up and get moving!
Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics; website: www.aap.org; February 17, 2005. National Association for Sport and Physical Education; website: www.aahperd.org/naspe; February 17, 2005
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