It’s a shocking statistic but nearly 20% of children are today considered obese and if trends continue (childhood obesity has been steadily rising for decades) in the same direction, 70 million children worldwide will be considered overweight or obese by 2025. Not only does childhood obesity affect a youngster’s self esteem, it generally establishes behaviors that continue into adolescence and adulthood, putting our population at greater risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes. Obesity also puts a tremendous strain on our healthcare system and hits taxpayers in the pocket book. In 2005, the total cost of obesity to Canadians was $4.3 billion; $1.8 billion in indirect healthcare costs, and $2.5 billion in indirect costs.
The answer to this dilemma is amazingly simple. Eat healthier and play more.
Lack of physical activity is one of the most significant contributors to childhood obesity. Thanks to a steady diet of streaming television content, smartphones/tablets and gaming consoles, kids have become increasingly sedentary, abandoning outdoor play (remember the days of hide and seek and “come home when the streetlights come on”?) for screen time. The average child today spends 4 hours a day watching television.
And yet, if we can just get our kids back to play the benefits of increased physical activity are clear and will wage an effective war against the obesity threat. Kids who vigorously play have better cardiorespiratory fitness, improved muscle strength and bone health, improved mental health – the list goes on. Industry experts also note kids are naturally drawn to outdoor play, as it gives them an opportunity to explore the environment around them, enjoy fresh air, connect with friends and escape from the homework grind (at least for a while).
Getting your kids outside to play automatically limits the time they spend in front of screens, which is one of the recommended strategies to combat childhood obesity. It also helps kids reach the desired goal of 60 minutes of aerobic activity a day, and satisfies other exercise objectives related to muscle development and bone strengthening required to help our little ones grow into healthy, active adults.
Bringing play back into children’s lives doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. And of course it should be fun! Here are some simple strategies you can follow to get everyone healthier and playing again.
1. Lead by example. When was the last time you picked up hockey stick, rode a bike or swung a tennis racket? Try it you might like it, and bonus, you get to spend quality time with your child.
2. Give them equipment that encourages them to vigorously play. Sports equipment such as The SportsScreen, soccer balls or a baseball bat and glove are a relatively inexpensive investment when it comes to your child’s long-term health.
3. Practice safe play. Parents today want to keep tabs on their kids. To keep your kids outdoors and playing but close to home, consider installing some recreation items to the exterior of your home, such as The SportsScreen (bonus! Your garage door is protected too) or a basketball net.
4. Make physical play fun. Beating mum or dad at a game of shinny? What gets better than that?
5. Provide them with or take them to places where they can be active. Your own driveway or your basement can be transformed into the ideal home training ground with The SportsScreen. Or if you want to venture further, try local splash pads, bike trails, or the playground at a local park or elementary school.