How to Prevent a Sedentary Lifestyle in Children
A sedentary lifestyle in children is an increasingly common issue that puts their mental and physical health at risk. One of the main causes behind this phenomenon is excessive use of technology.
This is evident in reports like the one issued by the Canadian Office of Public Health, in which only 1 in 10 children completes the recommended amount of physical activity for their age.
It’s no secret that a sedentary lifestyle has a negative impact on our health. However, according to data from the World Health Organization, almost 85% of the population does no physical activity whatsoever. If you don’t want your children to be part of this dangerous statistic, try these strategies.
“In 1995 the WHO classified obesity as an illness. Currently, it is considered an epidemic in both children and adults. Children who are overweight or obese participate in less physical activity and more sedentary activities. These lifestyles may be the main cause of limited motor patterns that they present.”
–Igor Cigarroa, Carla Sarqui, Rafael Zapata-Lamana–
Tips to prevent a sedentary lifestyle in children
- Find activities that they enjoy. You don’t have to sign them up for a competitive sport. It’s enough for them to swim, ride a bike, or take a dance class regularly. Help them find the physical activity they enjoy most.
- Look for something age-appropriate. In the early years, the motivation to exercise will be family fun. Over time, children’s preferences change and they can start to choose for themselves.
- Limit screen time. Whether it’s watching television, messaging, or playing a video game, periods of screen time should be restricted. Swap these activities with walks, games, and relay races.
- Remember that you’re a role model. The biggest influence on your children in their early years is you. Make sure to include exercise as a fundamental part of your daily routine and use the time to share, talk, and have fun as a family.
- Set goals. Start with short periods of time and simple activities that your children can easily do. Over time, and with practice, increase the duration and intensity. Reaching small goals will motivate them to stick with this healthy habit.
- Have a plan B for rainy days. It’s easy to do exercise outside to make its positive effects even more powerful and fight against a sedentary lifestyle. However, you can have a room or other space in the house that you can move freely in for when the weather is bad.
- Understand their pace and insecurities. Avoid pressuring your children to act like high-performance athletes. Also be aware that not all kids have the same abilities. Appreciate the differences in your children and learn how to motivate them.
The benefits of physical activity
- Lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis
- Positive mood
- Higher self-esteem
- Better sleep quality
- Lower risk of anxiety and depression
Some dangers of a sedentary lifestyle for children
- Sudden mood swings due to inactivity. People who spend a lot of time in one place or on one activity are likely to develop psychological disorders.
- Risk of cancer. Staying seated for a long period without exercise increases the probability of developing colon and lung cancer, as well as endometriosis.
- Childhood obesity is on the rise around the world. This is due in a large part to sedentary lifestyles and poor eating habits. Obesity can cause cardiovascular problems and diabetes.
- Problems with muscle and bone development. Sedentary lifestyles for children cause the joints and muscles to become weak from lack of exercise. Children who don’t get exercise are likely to have spine, neck, lower extremity, and muscle tone issues.
- Circulatory illnesses. Staying in the same position for prolonged periods of time restricts blood circulation throughout the body. Over time, the veins deteriorate and cease to function properly. This is called vein insufficiency and can turn into more serious problems like varicose veins and pulmonary embolisms.
- Decreased cerebral function. Both in school and at home, children should stay active and change their position often. This keeps their brains alert and in shape to produce ideas.
Motivating children’s interest in physical activity is a time-honored task for parents and teachers. A large part of your children’s bodily and intellectual development depends on it.
Start to get them involved in sports from a young age to build this important healthy habit. Guide them in this process and take care of your own health as well.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Cano M, Oyarzún T, Leyton F, Sepúlveda C. (2014) Relación entre estado nutricional, nivel de actividad física y desarrollo piscomotor. Nutr Hosp. 30(6):1313-18.
- Fisher A, Reilly J, Kelly L, Montgomery C, Williamson A, Paton J et al. (2005) Fundamental movement skills and habitual physical activity in young children. Med. Sci. Sport. Exerc. 37(4):684–8.