I have very few memories of my childhood spent indoors.
I fondly remember playing kickball with my friends, exploring the creek behind our neighborhood, playing in the rain and having epic snowball fights that spread around the neighborhood! The only time our neighborhood was quiet, without children in their yards playing, was during school hours.
I never wanted to be stuck inside all day playing video games or watching television, there was too much fun going on outside with my friends. Even as I got older I loved playing soccer, lacrosse and Taekwondo. I was usually busy almost every night of the week with some activity.
Today is a different story.
At such a young age, kids are taught to settle that active energy that most of us fondly remember getting out by playing outside or during sports.
Kids live to run, make noise and create messes. In our society we frown upon it. We tell them no, settle down, stop wiggling and only play during recess time that a school may or may not provide.
Sadly, schools are replacing recess with quiet time, test prep, or adding another class altogether. During elementary school I had great recess time on top of a gym class. Those were the best hours of the day!
Researchers have looking into why our children are becoming increasing inactive despite the scientific evidence that exercise is extremely beneficial to children. Currently in the U.S., 18% of children are obese. That number has tripled over the past 30 years! Finland, however, has been near the top of the Programme for International Student Assessment while the U.S. keeps falling.
Researchers believe this is because Finland gives their students 60 minutes of recess time a day and they have several 15 minute breaks throughout the school day.
Recently, Eagle Mountain Elementary School in Texas adopted this protocol during their school day and they found that their students were less prone to behavioral transgressions, less distracted, ahead of academic schedule as compared to other school districts and more focused.
Only 21.6% of children between the ages of 6-19 years get 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity at least 5 days in the week in the U.S.
Regular physical activity has numerous health benefits, such as improving cardiorespiratory fitness, building strong bones, building strong muscles, controlling weight and reducing anxiety and depression.
Regular physical activity also reduces the likelihood of developing heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, arthritis and high blood pressure. Establishing a regular physical activity routine while children are young can make lasting healthy habits through adulthood.
The lack of physical activity can be life-altering to children as they grow into adulthood. It can lead to an imbalance in the way their body processes food, leading to an increased risk of becoming overweight or obese. Physical inactivity also has an increased risk for developing lung, breast, colon or endometrial cancers. Kids who are inactive also have a higher percentage of osteoporosis due to bones that were not hardened in childhood through play.
Getting children to be physically active doesn’t have to be hard. It can be relatively easy if you get creative!
Some kids, like myself, love playing sports, so for my parents it was relatively easy to keep me active. Some kids, however, hate sports and the competitive/structured nature of them.
So if your kids hate sports?
There are a ton of options for kids who hate sports. If your child is comfortable with the structured nature but not the competitiveness of typical sports they could try a martial art. I especially love this idea for girls. I attended Taekwondo classes for about 7 years and obtained my black belt. Of course I learned how to defend myself but I also learned so many more important life lessons in the process.
I became a strong, independent, confident young woman and I truly believe I wouldn’t be the same person had I not attended martial art classes.
Other ideas to keep your child active include taking them to the gym or going with them to exercise. Just be sure to have a trainer or gym coach assist them on the proper use of the machines to prevent them from injuring themselves. Another idea is to teach your child how to jog and see if they would be interested in running a race. This is a great bonding experience if something else in the house jogs with them or trains for the same run.
Sometimes the best way to show your children the habits that we hope they adopt, such as staying physically active, is to make sure we do them ourselves. I am currently pregnant with my first child and my hope is that my husband and I show them through our habit of exercising regularly that they do so as well. And hopefully in the future, we can make ample memories spent outdoors.