Childrearing

Do Something: Inactivity Is The Biggest Threat To Our Children’s Health

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Parents in this country obsess over health and safety hazards. We pay close attention to recalls. We sanitize every toy our kids come into contact with. We avoid fast food like it’s the plague. Moms and dads are constantly worried about keeping our kids healthy. That’s our main priority, after all. So I have to admit that when I hear inactivity is the biggest threat to our children’s health, I’m a little amazed that parents aren’t doing more to help their kids get moving.

A recent survey looked at what problems adults see effecting the health of young people today. While traditional concerns like tee pregnancy and drug use still made the list, the biggest concern for parents were weight and activity issues. 39% of respondents chose “inactivity.” Coming in second place with 38% was “childhood obesity,” which is obviously influenced by inactivity.

Researchers think that recent advocacy about the importance of exercise, like First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign and the NFL’s successful “Play 60” program, has increased parents’ attention on the importance of movement. And it’s worked quickly. Last year, exercise didn’t even make the top ten list of concerns.

The director of the poll, Matthew Davis, reminded everyone that exercise is about more than body weight.  “But exercise offers many more benefits other than weight loss or preventing obesity — such as better attention and learning in school and improved sense of well-being.” That idea, that kids can learn better when they get regular exercise, has incited a push-back against schools’ attempts to limit recess in favor of more studying. Exercise advocates say that the active time will help students more than a couple extra worksheets.

Inactivity is obviously something that’s on parents’ minds, which just makes me wonder what we’re actually going to do about it. How are parents going to combat the draw of screen time. We’ve seen that the “active” video game movement didn’t particularly help families get healthy. Parents still seem to get angry with “no-score” intramural sports, preferring their little ones either engage in serious competition or don’t bother at all. And kids certainly aren’t seeing their parents get active, thereby learning a good example.

I think that last issue is the key to actually helping address our activity problem. Recent surverys show that two-thirds of kids report seeing their parents do “almost no physical activity.” We’re worried about our children sitting around all day, and yet that’s all they see parents do. Our kids are missing active role models in their own homes.

If  adults are really concerned about inactivity, I think there’s a pretty easy way to help your kids. Take them outside. Take them on hikes. Play a game of catch or softball. Get your exercise while your kids are there, involved and paying attention. Parents are concerned about their children’s inactivity. Now we just need to see if everyone’s willing to do something about it.

(Photo: Crystal Kirk/Shutterstock)

2 Comments

  1. Lo

    August 21, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    There’s another barrier to activity, and it comes from the toy-sanitizing brigade.

    My worst ‘outdoor’ childhood memories are of getting dragged along on cycling trips with my parents, who would be cross if I wasn’t as enthusiastic as they were. My best memories are of playing outdoors, unsupervised, using my imagination. Both gave me about as much exercise (tree-climbing ftw). Needless to say, letting kids go off and do their own thing today… accidents, germs, abuse from predatory adults and other children; the terror list goes on.

    There are risks to being active, just like there are risks to being inactive. If you’re cool with the possibility of your kids falling off things or coming into contact with regular germs, that’ll encourage them to be outside more. Active role models are great, too, as long as they don’t force it on the children.

  2. wmdkitty

    August 25, 2012 at 2:07 am

    What happened to playing outside?

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