There’s no denying the importance of physical activity. Regular exercise and physical activity are necessary to maintain good health. Though this is common knowledge, many children are not getting the exercise that they need to stay healthy and grow up strong. Schools are whittling down recess and children are coming home to spend their time in front of a screen rather than run around outdoors. Inactivity can lead to health problems, such as childhood obesity, and those health problems can become costly.
Childhood obesity has become a big issue in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents over the past three decades. In 2012, one out of three children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
The CDC recommends that children get at least one full hour of physical activity or exercise every single day. This is the recommended standard for maintaining good health and promoting proper development. Health benefits are an obvious reason to keep your child active, but inactivity can cost more than just your health.
The health costs of childhood obesity
Obesity has immediate as well as long term affects on your child’s health. Children who are obese are more likely to have cardiovascular and respiratory problems. They are also at a higher risk of developing diabetes, and are more likely to have bone and joint problems.
Children who are overweight and obese are at a higher risk of developing certain types of cancer and chronic health conditions.
The financial costs of childhood obesity
A team from the Global Obesity Prevention Center ran a simulation to determine the benefits of increasing physical activity of children. They tested scenarios with 50%, 75%, and 100% of children meeting the guidelines for an “active to healthy” activity level (or 25 minutes of physical activity 3 times a week) over a period of ten years. They also simulated 100% of children meeting the CDC’s recommendation of 1 hour of activity every day.
The simulations found that even a small increase in physical activity would be beneficial. If just 50% of all children were active 25 minutes three times a week, there would be:
- Over 240,000 fewer overweight and obese youths
- $20 billion saved in direct medical costs
- $32 billion saved in productivity losses
- 4 million years of life saved
If 100% of children were to get 1 hour of physical activity every day, there would be:
- Over 3 million fewer overweight and obese youths
- $35 billion saved in direct medical costs
- $57 billion saved in productivity losses
- 33 million years of life saved
The above findings are from a simulation, rather than actual data, but they highlight an important point. Physical activity is necessary to maintaining wellness, and the more active you are, the better. Inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle aren’t solely to blame for the increase in childhood obesity, but they are significant contributing factors. Healthy diet and exercise are key in maintaining a healthy weight and good overall health. Work towards a healthy lifestyle, and make regular physical activity a part of your daily routine!
Since schools are providing less activity, it’s even more important that parents help kids increase activity. Here are some practical ways to reach that goal:
- Involve kids in sports, dance lessons, or kids’ movement classes. This doesn’t have to be all or nothing — if your kid lives and breathes baseball, that’s fine, but there’s a fun physical activity for every kid and every budget. Try out a few options to find what your kids enjoy.
- Schedule family active time. That could be an early morning walk before you head for work or an evening outside play time. Even a weekly swim or skate time helps establish the importance of movement.
- Take up dance or exercise yourself; there are plenty of online and TV or DVD options. Make this a routine for yourself and invite your kids to join you. Providing a good example can be the biggest influence.
- Track your sedentary play time for a few days and see how much time you spend with TV or video games. Make a family plan to replace half that time with outdoor exploration or physical games.
- Encourage kids to play active games with their friends. A lot of kids nowadays don’t even know traditional active games like tag or jump rope. Teach the gang some of these fun games from the past!