On Tuesday, I shared some research showing that it’s not enough for kids to just get outside—if you want to ward off allergies and asthma, they need to be getting dirty, too.
But you know what? Simply getting outside is a really good start. Because it’s not just adults that are suffering from a lack of exercise these days. And recent statistics reveal a shocking truth about one serious challenge facing modern kids’ health.
Sitting disease doesn’t discriminate
Fact: Only one in 30 kids is getting the amount of daily exercise they need (which for children between the ages of 5 and 18 is roughly one hour of moderate-to-vigorous activity per day).
Researchers at the universities of Exeter and Plymouth found that just under one third of 9- to 10-year-olds are exercising 60 minutes per day on average—which is a startlingly low number.
But it gets worse. Because only about 3 percent of these kids are actually hitting this 60-minute target on a daily basis. And that number is even lower among girls—with just one percent meeting this daily quota.
In other words, the rock bottom estimates of childhood exercise habits have likely been far too generous.
Here’s why that matters: While averages are important, as I’ve explained here before, even regular visits to the gym can’t completely reverse the damage that “sitting disease” can do to your health—whether it’s at a desk or in front of the TV.
We need to stay moving throughout the day, every day, or our bodies will suffer the consequences. And that’s as true for kids as it is for adults… which makes these latest findings particularly threatening.
American kids aren’t doing any better
Granted this research took place in the United Kingdom—so these numbers may not be representative of the situation in the U.S. But our kids are almost certainly in worse shape.
If current trends continue to prevail, statistics show that more than half of America’s kids will be obese by age 35. This, despite the fact that only 17 percent of U.S. children are currently obese. (Though that’s hardly a reassuring number, since that means nearly 1 in 5 kids have serious weight problems.)
But make no mistake—this is a worldwide problem. In fact, childhood and teen obesity rates have risen ten-fold globally, to 1 in 5 kids over the last 40 years.
But spring is here, which thankfully means that longer, warmer days are here to stay for a while. So my advice to all parents (and grandparents) is to do your part to keep your kids and grandkids moving.
With more and more schools cutting back on recess and physical education, the hours before and after dinner might be the only real opportunities your children get to work up a sweat.
So make that time count—even if it’s just by taking a family walk together. Because whether you’re 9 or 90, if you want to stay healthy, you’ve got to stop sitting and stay moving.
“Three percent of children hit daily activity target.” Science Daily, 31 October 2018. <sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181031080617.htm>.