One in five children is obese. In fact, according to the CDC, the percentage of children with obesity in the U.S. has tripled since the 1970s. What’s even more frightening is that this statistic, for most of us, hardly comes as a shock.
More than ever before, children are spending hours sitting while watching television, staring at a tablet and playing video games. To reduce the childhood obesity rate, it’s important to motivate our children to get up and away from the things that keep them sedentary
Even if your child is at a healthy weight, physical activity is still critical to their development, health and well-being. Here are five reasons why:
1. Reduces risk of depression
In a study that observed 800 children, researchers discovered that physically active kids were less likely to develop depression when they were examined after a two-year period. The good news is they don’t need to be on the baseball team or part of a dance group to reap the benefits:
“Children [should] get a little sweaty and breathless. Try a bike ride or outdoor play. Limiting children’s TV or iPad screen time is not enough. Children need actual increased physical activity,” according to the study summary in Science Daily.
2. Increases test scores
Physical activity boosts brain function, improving cognition and scholastic abilities. That’s according to 2016 research, conducted by 24 scientists from all over the world, including the U.S., Canada and Europe. Some of the details uncovered can help you keep your child active. The following is most beneficial:
- Physical activity before, after and during school was found to be valuable.
- Mastering fundamental movements translates to improved academics and cognition.
- Cardiovascular movement benefits brain structure and function as well as cognition.
To reap the most benefits, take morning walks with your kids and encourage them to spend at least an hour playing outside after school. Make hobbies like jogging, biking, and hiking regular family activities to make time for cardio as well.
3. Allows for foundational development
It seems that children learn or do something new with each passing day, and physical activity ensures that they develop properly.
“[Physical activity] is the best way for [kids] to keep on track for those major milestones like skipping, hopping and bouncing. When they learn these and other tasks, they are not just learning a motion, but building a strong foundation for their bodies as they develop. This foundation includes core, balance and coordination. This will be helpful when joining in sports and other lifelong activities,” explains Jara Soost, NASM Elite Trainer.
Long story short: physical activity at a young age sets your child up for developmental success their entire lives.
4. Boosts overall mental health
Physical activity can help your child become a well-rounded adult, with greater confidence, good sleeping habits, less behavioral problems and improved social skills, all according to HealthyKidsFuture.org.
To take physical activity into your own hands, start simple with post-dinner walks, family gardening and turning commercials into a fitness break.
5. Inspires kids to be healthier adults
We know young minds are like a sponge, soaking up the world around them—and that goes for physical activity and health as well. In a 50-year study, 712 World War II veterans who were healthy as kids were examined 50 years later and the results found that the single most significant predictor of health was their participation in varsity sports in high school
While the participants were men (not female) and not everyone has a chance to play a varsity sport, the results are telling across the board:
“Encouraging systematic or frequent physical activity at a young age—whether through school sports or club opportunities—might be the best investment in long-term activeness,” suggests study authors.
If your child doesn’t like sports, consider another active hobby, like skateboarding, rollerblading, bike riding and the like.
How to start moving now
The benefits of physical activity for children are seemingly endless, boosting performance in school, foundational development, self-esteem, behavior and more. To ensure your kids reap the benefits, The American Heart Association recommends 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous daily aerobic activity.
Find ways to stay active as a family to role model healthy behavior and make it easier to find time for movement. Or, better yet, get fit together with this fun family workout plan!