About one-third of American children ages 10 to 17 are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and fewer than 25% of children get the recommended 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical active per day recommended by the American Medical Association.
Interaction with technology, urbanized living, academic pressures and other factors have combined to create historically low rates of youth physical activity.
Parents, teachers and fitness educators must realize and help educate others about the importance of frequent physical activity for kids. Awareness and support for this is more essential now than ever because it has never before been as disruptive to our adult lives.
- If a teacher wants their children to be active during the day, lack of funded physical education programs may require the average classroom teacher to take on physical education curriculum as well.
- Standardized testing in the classroom has teachers fearing for their jobs, so time spent doing activities not directly related to academic subjects is considered a “risk” by many.
- Urbanization has decreased the amount of space children have to roam and play. Parents often need to accompany kids to parks or open spaces.
- Inactive interaction with technology is an easy and convenient means by which to occupy children’s time and energy, allowing adults more “free time.” Adults must value physical activity for both themselves and their children, often at the cost of “peace and quiet.”
These are just a few of the disruptions to our adult lives that we must accept in order to restore an active, healthy youth culture. In this disruption, however, know that essential aspects of physical, cognitive, behavioral and social development are taking place when kids exercise frequently.
Why should children exercise? Here are the top 10 reasons why helping kids become active once again is worth the disruption to our adult lives:
- Children who are active 60 minutes per day demonstrate lower rates of obesity.
- Greater rates of activity in children have been associated with higher test scores in reading and math.
- Physical (body) and cognitive (brain) development go hand-in-hand. While this continues for life, this relationship is most critical at a young age. When kids are active, their brain develops, allowing for new types of activity.
- Play-based activity that requires a high degree of sensory input (sight, sound, touch, etc.) helps develop a broad array of skills that make physical activity more enjoyable later in life.
- Frequent physical activity has been associated with improved behavior in the classroom and beyond.
- It appears that active children are more likely to become active adults.
- Aerobic activity has been shown to increase the size of essential brain structures and number of neural connections.
- Frequent activities requiring a high degree of balance and coordination have been associated with improved emotional response.
- Frequent exercise decreases symptoms of depression and anxiety in children.
- Regular exercise with children promotes self-efficacy with regard to health and self-image.
Taking away from academic time as a teacher to get kids active is a challenge. Disrupting the peace and quiet offered by an iPad and kid-sized headphones is a hard sell. Taking time out of our already packed lives as adults to allow kids the opportunity to be active can feel like an uphill battle for just about everyone.
As you can see, however, exercise and frequent activity for kids is critical to their ability to develop into happy, healthy, active adults. Do you accept the challenge?