Think back to when you were young. How did you spend your free time? When I look back, I remember summers of participating in sports as well as participating in school sports programs. I remember spending time outdoors with my brothers playing pickup games of baseball in the summer and building snow forts in the winter. There wasn’t the access and mobility of technology that there is today, and I remember my parents limiting the amount of time we could spend watching TV or playing games on the computer.
But times have definitely changed and children have more and more access to mobile technology at earlier and earlier ages. One of my fellow bloggers has written about how technology has impacted children and changed how they spend their time.
Overtime, children have become less and less active and it has become a global problem. Active behaviors are being replaced with more sedentary behaviors. There may be many reasons for this, but the evolution of technology may be the biggest contributing factor. Technology has placed everything at our fingertips making pretty much everything available at the touch of a button. And as technology continues to change the way we live, children will continue to be impacted.
A 2011 study completed in the UK found that only 51 percent of 7 to 8 year-old children got the recommended hour of physical activity every day. Another study found that the average child gets his or her first cell phone around the age of 12. So is the availability of technology the reason for the high levels of inactivity in children? As children have more access to phones and tablets, the more time they spend texting, playing games, and watching TV at earlier and earlier ages can result in much less time spent being active.
This problem obviously isn’t just limited to the UK. In 2013, only about 29 percent of high school students in the United States participated in at least 60 minutes of physical activity. In Spain, a 2008 study revealed that only 48 percent of 6 to 18 year-olds participated in at least 60 minutes of physical activity.
How much physical activity should children be getting? According to the American Heart Association, all children older than the age of 2 should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activities every day. These activities should be enjoyable, varied, and developmentally appropriate. If it is difficult to get all 60 minutes in at once, break the time up into two 30 minute or four 15 minutes periods of time.
Why should children increase their physical activity?
- Limited physical activity increases the likelihood of children will live less healthy lives.
- It increases the risk of children becoming overweight or obese.
- Childhood is when healthy or poor habits will be learned and less active children are likely to become inactive adults.
The best way to increase physical activity is to focus on education and active engagement in children.
- Make physical activity fun and engaging for children and adolescents so that it is something they will want to participate in.
- The biggest key is for parents and adults to be role models for what an active lifestyle should be. Children tend to emulate behaviors and if you’re not setting the example for your children or the children in your life, why would expect them to see the benefit of being active?