Nearly every mother who’s met long hot summer days with energetic kids just freed from another year of school has faced that dreaded moment when she couldn’t stand it anymore. The frolicsome vitality that comes with the promise of summertime seems to literally burst from kids everywhere. I recall my own mother exclaiming (in desperation for some peace), “Go outside and find something to do.” Those were the days when “going outside” was a welcome assignment – long hours spent in water fights with the buddies, exploring the neighborhood on bikes, climbing trees or swimming at the local pool awaited the command, “find something to do.”
Today, kids show less interest in going outside, particularly with the temptation of sedentary hours spent on electronic entertainment inside an air-conditioned room. But the urgency to get kids outdoors to play has not decreased with the technological advancements of their generation. In fact, research has been done on this very subject due to the increased obesity, inactivity and subsequent illnesses that follow kids who do not “play” physically. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), kids need at least 60 minutes of solid physical activity per day.
Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for developing coronary artery disease. It also increases the risk of stroke and such other major cardiovascular risk factors as obesity, high blood pressure, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol and diabetes. The American Heart Association recommends that children and adolescents participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.
Kids Play Outdoors
Why is this information so important for parents? The American Heart Association further states that, “Just like in adults, increased physical activity has been associated with an increased life expectancy and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.” (www.heart.org)
Finding activities that take children off of the sofa, away from the computer or tablet and places them out into the active world of creative play isn’t as difficult as it would seem. Reducing sedentary time by controlling the availability of computers, TV and other electronics is one of the first steps that can be taken. In addition, demonstrating through example that physical activity is fun can be a compelling alternative to “couch potato” habits.
The benefits are considerable and per the AHA, can add years and quality to even a child’s life. Some of these are listed below:
• controlling weight
• reducing blood pressure
• raising HDL (“good”) cholesterol
• reducing the risk of diabetes and some kinds of cancer
• improved psychological well-being, including gaining more self-confidence and higher self-esteem
It’s important that measures are taken to keep these activities free from injury. Supervision is key, provided by responsible adults who are conscious of their children’s activities at all times, particularly when involving water. “Eyes to the swimmer” is always a good rule of thumb at pools, lakes or beaches – any body of water where children are apt be near. As well, proper equipment keeps children from unnecessary injury resulting from falls or contact sports.
Additional information about safety, including Basic First Aid and CPR can be found through training centers such as SureFire CPR located in Orange County. Enjoy the outdoors – get active, play hard and stay safe for summer.