A recent study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine found that children need at least seven minutes a day of vigorous physical activity (running, playing basketball, dancing) to prevent weight gain and obesity, but most children don’t get anywhere close to that amount. The study found that a brisk walk or playing the yard isn’t enough. Kids have to get out and do a high-intensity activity in addition to maintaining a background of mild-to-moderate activity.
Dr. William Stratbucker, medical director, Healthy Weight Center, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Grand Rapids, Michigan, states, “Many parents think their children are active but when asked what they mean by this, they give examples of being outside or playing. While these are certainly healthier activities than sitting on the couch and watching television, they rarely raise the heart and breathing rates or make the child sweat, all required for the definition of ‘vigorous’ activity.”
Stratbucker also points out that physicians don’t typically ask parents about specifics regarding physical activity. Simply hearing that the child is active, i.e., plays soccer, is not enough. Pediatricians need to ask, “How much time for how many days per week—year-round—does your child get vigorous activity and how do you, as a parent, promote such activity?” It is a physician’s role to understand why a child might be avoiding vigorous activity.
Dr. Stratbucker recommends that parents discuss the following with their pediatrician:
- Why a child is avoiding vigorous activity – Is it linked with undiagnosed or under treated asthma, bullying or teasing, or mental health concerns, including depression.
- Tips for parents on strategies to prioritize vigorous activity within their family.
- The importance of the whole family being vigorously active and parents modeling the same behavior.
- Discuss with both parent and child what “vigorous” means and challenge them to see how many minutes a day they can reach by their next checkup.
In addition, Dr. Stratbucker can offer recommendations on how to specifically increase the amount of vigorous exercise a child gets each day. Please let me know if we can arrange for an interview.
- Submitted by Angela Crawford
- Credits: Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and Dr. William Stratbucker.
From the webmaster….. I enjoy getting notes from many individuals, and I received this one today via email. It makes some valid points, with great information and suggestions to follow. Childhood obesity is on the rise, but sadly, so many children do not get enough time for physical activity. As a result, there has been an increase in obesity, heart disease, childhood obesity, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and weak joints. On top of this, many obese children are bullied at school and have low self esteem. I hope you enjoyed the above post.