According a new study, America’s children are not getting enough exercise, and parents are not making exercise for kids a priority. The research, conducted by the YMCA, gave surveys to more than 1600 parents of children between the ages of 5 and 10. It showed that less than half spent even four days a week playing outside. What was the reason? Parents find it easier, and more convenient for them if their children to spend time in front of the television or computer. Time, money, and technology make it very difficult for families to get even an hour a day of physical activity. Many parents indicated a need to cut back on extracurricular activities for their children in order to save money. But these types of activities are not the only way to get 60 minutes of exercise.
It even counts as exercise for kids if you park at the end of the parking lot when you take your children to the store, forcing you all to walk further to get to where you want to go. Experts advise parents to stop looking for a one hour chunk of time, but rather look for opportunities for short bursts of exercise. Every minute adds up to help prevent disease and obesity.
The research also shows that social networking sites and smart phones are distracting kids from playing, but over half of parents claim they play video games with their children. According to experts, parents should look for ways to limit time spent on sedentary activities, getting creative and creating opportunities for exercise for kids within the family environment.
Despite the disheartening results of this study, there is still reason to be optimistic about the future of our children’s health. The First Lady’s campaign has brought awareness of the need for exercise for kids to the forefront, and communities have begun efforts that have started to change the conversations in America’s living rooms. Progress is being made; we just have to step it up a little.
Some practical ideas to increase exercise for kids at home may be a night without any television, replacing that time after dinner with a walk or a bicycle ride as a family. Make it a point to spend time at the park on pretty weekends, and buy a ball for a spontaneous round of family dodge ball or kick ball. Even a 15 minute game while supper is in the oven counts toward that hour each day. If Americans get intentional, and incorporate smart eating habits with increased activity in a creative manner, there may just be hope yet.