Anyone who has tried to sit through dinner with wiggly young children can see that the human body is made to move (and that not spilling beverages is an acquired skill!). Making sure kids and teenagers keep moving, despite the constraints of dinnertime, school, screens, and our sedentary culture, can help set good habits for life.
Physical activity among American kids and teenagers is alarmingly low, according to a new study. More than half of teenagers, half of 6 to 11-year-old girls and 25 percent of 6 to 11-year-old boys, don’t meet the World Health Organization’s recommendations for at least an hour of moderate to vigorous activity a day. And the average activity of 19-year-olds is similar to that of 60-year-olds!
The researchers emphasize that all physical activity matters, not just the heart-pounding variety. In a study that pushed 8 to 10-year-olds to do 70 minutes of physical play a day, their grades and tests scores went up as their belly fat went down. So start brainstorming ways to increase activity of all kinds. Can your children walk or bike to school some days instead of driving or taking the bus? How about a family walk after dinner? Make weekend excursions for hiking, biking, or walking around a city part of your routine. Organize sports, dance classes, swimming, or good old-fashioned tag, kickball, or capture the flag. At the beach this summer? Bring a Frisbee and soccer balls — and have everyone leave their screens inside! As much as possible, make movement a family affair, and everyone will benefit.