The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend children get an hour or more of exercise daily. On the flip side, we recommend children engage in less than two hours of "screen time" daily, which includes TV, computer, video games, and so on. When hopscotch and Freeze Tag were in, this was no problem. But, now this recommendation sounds like we're trying to make each child an Olympian.
While things like the Wii could be used to achieve exercise goals, we really shouldn't rely on it. And worse off, here's some recent evidence on what your kids could be watching instead. Research findings estimate kids spend nearly 6 HOURS engaged in screen time per day with the following breakdown:
-Nearly 4 hours watching TV, movies/DVDs,
-Another hour on the computer,
-Andjust under an hour on video games.
Two out three kids have televisions in their rooms while one in three has a computer. A TV in the bedroom accounts for an average 1.5 hours more TV viewing per day than kids without TV in their rooms.
Watching TV contributes to childhood obesity in more than one way. First, children are typically sedentary while watching TV. Of course this takes time away from physical activities- not necessarily exercise, but simply time spent moving. Secondly, excessive screen time can lead to overeating. This is true for both kids and adults. Why? You're more likely to snack on junk food and you're more likely to lose control of portion sizes as you engage in "mindless eating". Worse off, commercials directed towards kids are full of advertising for energy dense food. Watch cartoons on a Saturday morning and you'll find very few fruit and vegetable ads. You're much more likely to see ads for foods high in fat, sugar, salt, or a combination of the three. One more startling statistic-80 percent of all veggies advertised are French fries.
Tanya's Tips to Incorporate Activity:
- Play outside! There is nothing better than fresh air. Be sure to mind the forecast and always safety first!
- Take the TV out of the bedroom.
- Make a habit of stretching, jogging in place, or squeezing in some resistance training during commercials
- Dance! This can be an effortless form of exercise because it's so much fun.
- Walk and talk. Embrace the freedom of the cordless or cellular phone.
- Reward kids with activity rather than sedentary time. For good grades, take them to the park rather than a movie. For good behavior, treat them to a family kickball game rather than extra computer time.
- Offer everything from sports to fine arts to help them find their niche.
- Check out your local Parks & Recreation department to try something new. It's a great way to get involved in your community and also take that dance class you always wanted to try.
- Play with the pets! It's another fun way to be active without noticing.
- Train for a 5K walk or fun run. Check out programs like Girls on the Run, or make it a family activity.
For more information about getting active and reducing screen time, here are a couple sites I like:
Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a nutritionist and founder of www.Skinnyandthecity.com. She is also the creator of The F-Factor DietaC/, an innovative nutritional program she has used for more than ten years to provide hundreds of her clients with all the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, improved health and well-being. For more information log onto www.FFactorDiet.com.