Childhood development: Lack of physical activity a threat

Growing up, I would often hear the statement, “It takes a village to raise a child.” My village was extended family, neighbors, teachers, coaches, and church members. Children ran and played in our neighborhood without fear or intimidation. Knowing there was a safety net of people looking out for me, helped instill a sense of family, community, and confidence.

I reminisce because our children today are facing some unusual circumstances. Lifestyle behaviors for children reveal serious health threatening issues.

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The first obstacle is fast food consumption rather than nutritious whole foods which contributes to childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes.  But the second threat is becoming even more dangerous.

It is a sedentary routine that can inhibit the development of strong muscles, ligaments, and tendons in our youth. Rather than running and playing outdoors, some children are sleeping until noon, staring at a screen for school work and recreation, playing video games, texting, and watching television.

Remember getting a fitness award?

Nearly half of America’s youth find it challenging to do twenty sit ups. As a participant in the Presidential Physical Fitness Award, a student was challenged to do a shuttle run, pull-ups, sit-ups, the standing broad jump, rope climb, softball throw, 50-yard dash, and 600 yard run.

Perhaps you remember this program during Physical Education classes. Weekly exercise routines provide a foundation for childhood development. The program no longer exists, and many schools do not offer physical education classes.

From pre-school to high school, children struggle with minimal athletic abilities and a negative attitude toward being active. Unfortunately, COVID 19 erupted in the midst of an understated and lesser recognized worldwide pandemic.

According to a World Health Organization news release in April 2019, 80% of adolescents lack sufficient physical activity. Around the world, more than 5 million deaths occur annually due to sedentary behavior.

In an era of virtual classrooms, limited sports, and music programs, festivals and events cancelled, what will the 2020 statistics report about our village?

Fitness tips

Here are a few tips to help endorse physical activities.

Wake up on time each day rather than sleeping until noon or whenever. The body’s internal time clock helps trigger healthy sleep patterns.

Choose a path for a morning stroll. From infants in a stroller to teenagers, mom, dad, neighbors and dog, everyone together can walk and talk. Physical activity early in the day helps improve respiratory, cardiovascular, and immune functions, and conversation provides brain stimulation and emotion connection.

Set a timer to get up and move around during online classes and work at home situations.

Link daily activities to short bursts of exercise.  

Jump up and down ten times before getting in a vehicle or leaving the house. It takes seconds to accomplish and works wonders for helping the lymphatic system.

In the process of being seated, sit down, stand up again, then sit down.  You just did a squat!

Bend over and touch the floor each time you open the refrigerator door.

Do ten arm circles before getting in the shower.

Plank during a commercial break while watching television.

While these tips may sound odd at first, losing 5 million people a year to early death due to inactivity sounds anomalous. Childhood obesity and other serious health conditions are furthered by lack of motion.

Encourage children to run, ride a bicycle, go for a hike, swim, shoot some hoops and jump rope. It takes a village to raise a child. Let’s help keep our children moving toward healthy habits as they reach for their dreams.