When we were children, we spent more time playing outside or interacting with other children. We played more often, and took part in physical activities, rather than watching TV, and back then, no one ever heard of a computer or a mobile phone. For me, riding my bike and playing soccer, badminton, cricket (which is similar to baseball), and board games with my friends were common activities. Playing games with other children in the neighborhood was a regular activity for us, and when we got bored, we would read a good book.
Today, life has changed a lot, since my childhood days. The opportunity for playing outside with other children has been reduced in the United States, and also in many other countries of the world. Children today spend a majority of their time, watching TV, playing video games, or playing with their computers. Some children, especially young adults, have access to the internet through their mobile phones or computers.
Technology and lifestyle changes affecting children
Generally speaking, kids today don’t get enough exercise or engage in any kind of physical activities. According to Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), most children plug into the world of television, long before they enter school. (How TV Affects Your Child). With the progress of technology, wide spread popularity of mobile phones and computers, anything is available with a touch of a button, and so, it does not encourage physical activities among children.
Inactivity is causing serious damages to the physical development of children. Studies show that technology is playing a major role in causing our children to become physically inactive. According to recent studies, only one out of three children engage in any kind of physical activity every day (Facts & Statistics – President’s Council on Fitness). The survey also shows that, 3 out of 4 children between ages 5 through 10 get less than one hour of physical activity on a daily basis.
74% of parents reported that, most of their family time is spent sitting in front of a TV set and 42% of parents say growing technological distractions, including computer games, and cell phones, and social networks, are responsible for the inactivity of children. (Most Young Kids Don’t Get Enough Exercise)
Child obesity is one of the most challenging and serious problems, and consequences of the inactivity, of the 21st century. Data from 2009-2010 indicates that over 12.5 million (16.9%) children and adolescents are obese. (Facts & Statistics – President’s Council). Globally, the number of overweight children under the age of 5 is estimated to be over 42 million.
Children with weight problems are likely to grow up obese, and develop many weight-related diseases, such as heart and cardiovascular, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, fatigue, asthma, arthritis, and a generally poor health status.
Importance of physical activities
Regular physical activities improve the physical condition of children, improves health and strength. It also improves stamina and endurance, builds stronger bones and muscles, increases self-esteem, reduce anxiety, and stress. Healthy children will grow up into healthy adults, and also be active in old age.
Along with physical health and development, physical lack of activities can also influence a child’s ability to perform well in academic curriculum, and school attendance rate may also drop. According to the findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, physical inactivity in children may have harmful effects on children’s cognitive function and academic achievement, (Physical Inactivity in Children Hinders Motor Skills and Academic Achievement – NeuroNet Learning).
It is recommended that young children between the ages of 6 through 17 engage in some kind of physical activity, at least an hour each day. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
How to motivate children to get physically active
Physical activities, along with a healthy diet plan, are necessary for developing physically healthy children. Parents and schools must play an active role to help children shape their physical health. You can encourage children of all ages to become more physically active. Here are a few tips to motivate your kids into getting more physical exercises.
1. Make it fun:
Your children will be encouraged to become more physically active, if you can make it fun for them. Start activities with your children at an early stage, and make it a regular practice. Find out what kind of activities your children like getting into the most, and encourage those activities.
2. Regulate TV and computer time
Limits need to be set on all forms of entertainment that don’t encourage any activities. For example, regulate the time your children can spend watching TV or playing video games. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends less than “two hours of daily media exposure.” (Fitness for Kids Food &Fitness . PBS Parents)
3. Educate your children
Speak to your children about the importance of physical fitness, including healthy diet and exercise. Encourage children to participate in physical classes, sports, and athletics, regularly in school.
4. Become physically active yourself
Children will find it more encouraging to participate in physical activities, if you become physically active yourself. Find family physical activities that you all can share. Also encourage your children to invite friends over to play together.
5. Reward your children
A trip to the park, a local museum, the city zoo, or a picnic can be a reward for your children. “Plan activities that do not seem like exercise” (How To Motivate Your Child To Exercise)
It is your responsibility to encourage children to engage in physical activities regularly. The consequences of inactivity can be serious, and there are both long and short term health risks. There is growing evidence that the number of obese children and health concerns and illnesses associated with obesity is increasing. Make sure that you and your children maintain a physically active and healthy lifestyle.
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Source: Nourish the Planet