Walk, run, play: It’s not happening as often as it should

Walk, run, play: It’s not happening as often as it should

Being active is a critical part of a healthy lifestyle, but let’s face it, many children are not walking, running and playing enough.  Instead, a large portion of their time is spent on things that don’t burn many calories.

Consider this, the federal government says adolescents between the ages of 8-18 spend an average of 7.5 hours a day on their phones or in front of a TV or computer.  Doctors want children to devote only a fraction of that time to exercise – 60 minutes a day, 5 days a week. 

“Getting regular exercise helps children in many ways,” says Megan Jensen, MD a Family Medicine physician with Dean Clinic – Sun Prairie.  “Setting habits early in life helps kids to maintain these healthy habits into adulthood.  It aids in other ways too, such as working on interpersonal skills (as in team sports), improving sleep, decreasing risks for chronic diseases (like diabetes and heart disease), and helps to improve self-esteem,” adds Jensen. 

Parents don’t need to overthink things if they’re trying to change their child’s habits.  Anything that gets children moving will help.  “It doesn’t have to be sports, because cleaning, dancing, running around with friends, playing at the park or on a playground all have health benefits,” notes Jensen.

One of the issues – many families are simply too busy devote the proper time to physical activity.  “There is so much more media exposure these days that it’s easy to fall into ruts,” says Dr. Jenson.  

CDC research from 2013 shows 24 percent of adolescents said they were physically active each day.  Nearly the same number of kids (22.5 percent) admitted to watching 3 or more hours of TV each day.

Trends won’t change overnight, but for those committed to making changes, there are many resources to help you out. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has compiled a list of tips to help your child make physical activity a part of their lives.  You can also download a Time For Kids 2016 calendar for weekly tips on how to live a healthier lifestyle.