The American Medical Association has now registered obesity as a disease that plagues 35 percent of the U.S. population. With obesity rates at an all-time high, we are now expected to outlive our children’s generation for the first time in history.
A staggering number of children and teenagers are significantly less active than their parents were at their age. Childhood memories of grass stains and skinned knees have become relics of a different time for most. In fact, an estimated “25 percent of children do not participate in any free-time, physical activity.” That crucial hour of exercise has now been replaced with television, LOL-ing on their smart phones and countless hours surfing the Web.
While this may be a comfortable social life for millennial children and teens, it does not support their developing brains, bodies or even their immune systems.
It can be quite difficult to teach children and teens to become Internet savvy while simultaneously encouraging them to participate in seemingly prehistoric outdoor activities. But because obesity in children has doubled in the last 25 years (and tripled in adolescents), it’s clear that an effort to get them moving is in order.
In a recent article published by Science Daily, a new form of physical activity called “exergaming” balances physical exercise with online gaming.
“Exergaming, using active console video games that track player movement to control the game (e.g., Xbox Kinect, Nintendo Wii), has become popular, and may provide an alternative form of exercise to counteract sedentary behaviors.”
As our society continues into the future, exergaming may play a key role in bridging the gap between sedentary and active children. While still relatively new–and bound to be greeted by its share of eye-rolling–research has demonstrated health benefits of exergaming.
In a study involving 35 overweight children between ages 7 to 12, researchers found that playing an upright, active video game at least five times a week led to the children feeling more coordinated, less winded, and less self-conscious.”3 Moreover, the aerobic activity gained helped promote higher levels of self-esteem and reduced their risks of obesity-related diseases.
As silly as the gaming sounds, it can help its players get off the couch and get in shape.
Because research has validated the benefits of exergaming, health clubs, gyms, workplaces and schools have started to introduce these games into their businesses.
Active Children are Healthy Children
Every living thing on the planet requires physical activity and balanced nutrition for essentially the same reasons:
- Promote healthy growth and development
- Build strong bones and muscles
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
- Improve posture
- Improve self-esteem
- Improve balance and develop skills
- Maintain and develop flexibility
- Improve cardiovascular fitness
- Provide opportunities to make friends
As with many other experiences in our youth, exercise plays a crucial role in what our future selves will develop into.
Because it’s fairly uncommon for children to be concerned about their health (not to be confused with concern over their appearance), it is important for parents and other influential adult figures to demonstrate a health-conscious lifestyle. Lead by example.
By helping children become familiar with healthy food choices and teaching them to exercise regularly from a young age, the aspects of healthy living become easier to integrate as they get older. Getting kids associated with these concepts will also feel less like a chore and more like a routine. It becomes as standard as brushing their teeth.
When we hit our 30s, we already begin to lose muscle mass. Therefore, the early stages of development rely entirely on the amount of physical activity we experience. Long-term physical inactivity often leads to weight gain, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Over time, we continue to require physical activity to maintain a healthy lifestyle but these activities change. The things that were cake to us as kids (like pulling an all-nighter) are now met with a significantly more difficulty.
An active childhood sets the stage for a healthy adult life. Helping your kids get active now–even if for a video game that encourages moderate exercise–will pay extraordinary dividends in the long run. Once they get off the couch, your kids are more likely to feel better both physically and emotionally, which can go a long way in helping them adopt a healthy lifestyle.