Our View: More activity benefits the whole family

Published 12:59 pm Saturday, August 3, 2019

Good health is a family affair.

That’s the mission of National Exercise With Your Child Week, which was founded in 2010 to encourage physical activity in young people.

In a world consumed by technology, screens and everything digital, it can be hard to make sure young people get adequate physical activity.

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Inadequate physical activity contributes to childhood obesity, which has reached dangerous levels in the U.S.

The American Heart Association reports nearly 17 percent of American children ages 2 to 19 are obese and another 15 percent are overweight. Globally, an estimated 43 million preschool aged children are overweight or obese, a 60 percent increase from 1990.

As with adults childhood obesity contributes to many other health problems, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, cancer and osteoarthritis.

And while physical activity is an integral part of reducing rates of childhood obesity, many children do not get the recommended amount of activity each day.

AHA reports only 27.1 percent of high school students met recommended levels of daily physical activity in 2015, while 41.7 percent of students spent three or more hours on computers or video games for non-school activities.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mimic this trend.

The CDC reports less than a quarter (24 percent) of children 6 to 17 years of age participate in 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

In 2017, only 26.1 percent of high school students participate in at least 60 minutes per day of physical activity on all seven days of the previous week.

The American Heart Association recommends that kids and teens (ages 6 to 17) get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. The AHA offers these tips to help children be more physically active:

— Be a role model for an active lifestyle. Start moving more yourself and find ways to be active together as a family.

— Physical activity should be fun for children and adolescents. Encourage kids to keep trying activities to discover the ones they like and will stick with. Don’t use physical activity as a punishment.

— Reduce or limit sedentary screen time, including watching television, playing video games and using a digital device. Don’t use the TV or a device as a babysitter.

— Provide kids with opportunities to be active. Give them active toys and games, like bikes, skateboards, roller skates, scooters, jump ropes, balls and sports equipment.

— Support their participation in sports, dance and other active recreation like swimming, biking and running. Get familiar with community facilities near you, like pools, recreation centers, bike paths and parks.

— When safe, let them walk or bike places instead of always driving them in the car. For example, you could walk or bike to school or the bus stop together.

— If your child is very inactive now, start slowly. Increase the amount and intensity of activity gradually each week or so. This may help them avoid discomfort or injury and adjust to a more active lifestyle without becoming discouraged.

— Praise, rewards and encouragement help kids to stay active.

When you practice a healthy lifestyle, your children are more likely to follow.

There are a lot of ways to easily incorporate more physical activity in your family’s lifestyle. Consider taking evening walks or taking frequent trips to the part in pace of screen time in the evenings.

Involve children in physical chores you already do around the house. Let them help with yard work and encourage them to clean around the house.

Rather than investing in more technology, consider spending your money for fees for youth sports or for fun activities like bounce houses or trampoline parks. Consider purchasing outdoor toys rather than electronics or video games.

This week, create a plan to add more physical activity in your life, and your children will follow.