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Exercise: US Children Not Getting Enough

by Jennifer Goldsmith Cerra

There was a time when childhood meant riding your bike morning to night, back and forth to the neighborhood playground. Those days are gone, according to a new study that suggests many American youngsters are not getting enough physical activity and parents are failing to make their children’s health a priority.

The YMCA surveyed more than 1,600 American parents with children between the ages of 5 and 10. The research showed that 58 percent of children play less than four days a week outside because parents find it more convenient to spend time in front of a television or computer.

“There are many small things that make it very difficult for families to get an hour of physical activity a day,” said Dr. Matt Longjohn, the YMCA’s US Director of Chronic Disease Prevention. “Among the factors you could blame are technology, time, and money.”

More than half of parents said that the need to save money in the tough economy has forced them to cut back on their kids’ extracurricular activities.

“Getting 60 minutes of exercise doesn’t have to just come from sports or things that cost money,” Dr. Longjohn said. “It could be taking a walk, or choosing to walk up stairs instead of taking an elevator, for example. It doesn’t have to be organized.”

The YMCA study also found that technological innovations—such as social networking sites and smart phones—are distracting children from playing, although 52 percent of parents said they spend time with their children engaged in activities such as playing video games.

Dr. Longjohn suggested that parents find ways to limit the amount of time children spend on sedentary activities such as watching television.

“Parents need to get creative on setting limits on screen time,” he said. “That means putting their family into environments that create those opportunities for physical activity.”

All is not lost, Dr. Longjohn points out.

“National initiatives such as the First Lady’s campaign have brought awareness to this effort and community efforts have started to change the conversations in living rooms,” he said.

“If we’re vigilant as a country to keep our eyes on the ball here and continue to support health and incorporate healthy routines, there is no reason not to be optimistic.”

The information on MommyMDGuides.com is not intended to replace the diagnosis, treatment, and services of a physician. Always consult your physician or child care expert if you have any questions concerning your family's health. For severe or life-threatening conditions, seek immediate medical attention.