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Child and Teen Obesity: Ten Active Activities Every Child Should Be Able to Do

Friday, January 18, 2019

You do not have to look far to find a catalogue of publications and articles about child, teen and adult obesity levels being on the increase. It is not surprising that child and teenage obesity levels have risen ten-fold in the last four decades across the world. It is not surprising that child and teenage obesity levels have risen ten-fold in the last four decades across the world, because of a less active lifestyle, 24-hour fast food outlets and supermarkets, the additives in our food and a lack of daily physical exercise. This means that around 124 million girls and boys around the globe are too fat, according to a study conducted by The Lancet.

McDonald's open for business all year around

This study by The Lancet was the biggest of its kind, looking at obesity trends in over 200 countries. In the UK, one in every ten young people aged five to 19 were found to be obese. Though this is shocking, it appears to be becoming the norm and obese children are likely to become obese adults, putting them at risk of serious health problems, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer, such as breast and colon. This in turn increases the budget required to deal with such issues, which the World Obesity Federation has predicted will exceed £920bn every year from 2025.

Last week, I did a blog post on The Impact of TVs, Smartphones and Tablets on Children where I spoke about the vast amount of time children wasted on these devices or playing on game consoles. Whilst I tried to offer a balanced view, one thing that kept resonating with me was their lack of exercise or activity, compared to how much screen time they have.

Kids competing in school sports dayPhysical fitness is the primary idea in exercise physiology and can be considered as an integrated measure of most, if not all, body functions involved in carrying out daily physical activity (movement) and physical exercise. These body functions can be broken down into what is considered the Components of Fitness:

  • Aerobic Fitness
  • Body Composition
  • Muscular Strength
  • Power
  • Speed
  • Core
  • Balance
  • Flexibility
  • Co-Ordination

A high level of physical fitness in childhood has been linked to reduced risk of obesity and cardiovascular diseases (mainly narrowing or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain – angina – or stroke), and improved musculoskeletal (the muscles and the bones) health and mental health.

Alarming for us all as parents is the need to do something about this. A survey conducted by Public Health England and Disney looked at the effects of physical activity on children's emotional wellbeing.

What they found was that the number of children doing an hour of exercise a day falls by nearly 40% between the ages of five and 12. This indicates that by the final year of primary school, just 17% of pupils are doing the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day. By the time children leave primary school, more than a third are overweight. When asked for their views on this finding, a spokesman for Public Health England described the drop in activity levels as "concerning".

What was interesting is that more than 1,000 children aged five to 11 were questioned, with their parents acknowledging that being active made their children feel happier (79%), more confident (72%), and more sociable (74%).

But a worrying fact the survey uncovered was that children's overall happiness declined with age, with 64% of five- and six-year-olds saying they always felt happy, compared with just 48% of 11-year-olds.

A child’s self-consciousness, current lifestyles, a parent’s unwillingness to engage their kids, and technology all play a part in the current and continuing child and teen obesity issues. Conducting dynamic activity with kids does present its own challenges, due to their size, short attention span and interest; however, this is no excuse to not be active.

Children in the park doing ladder exercisesI have decided that I need to use my vast experience as an athlete and coach to help. Using the Components of Fitness list identified above, I have come up with ten Fitness Activities that I believe all children should be doing. My kids have agreed to be my guinea pigs, so over the coming months I will produce written material and videos explaining each element in the list below. Here is my list of ten active activities every child should do:

  1. Flexibility: Improve
  2. Balance: Improve
  3. Muscle Strength: Use Body Weight
  4. Core: Improve
  5. Co-Ordination: Improve
  6. SAQ: Speed-Agility-Quickness
  7. Jump and Land: Correct Technique
  8. Run and Jog: Correct Technique
  9. Ball Skills: Correct Technique
  10.  Cartwheel: Learn

As and when they go live the titles will be active with all links inserted!

Sources

  • American College of Sports Medicine (2000) “ACSM’s Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription”, American College of Sports Medicine, 6th ed, Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
  • Public Health England (17 July 2017) “Number of children getting enough physical activity drops by 40%”. Gov.uk [Accessed 10 January 2019]
  • Hebestreit H. (2004) “Exercise testing in children — What works, what doesn't, and where to go?” Paediatric Respiratory Reviews, Volume 5, Supplement 1, pages S11-S14
  • Ortega FB, Ruiz JR, Castillo MJ, Sjöström M. (2008) “Physical fitness in childhood and adolescence: a powerful marker of health”. Int J Obes (Lond), 32, 1-11.
  • Ruiz JR, Castro-Piñero J, Artero EG, Ortega FB, Sjöström M, Suni J, Castillo MJ. (2009) “Predictive validity of health-related fitness in youth: a systematic review”. Br J Sports Med, 43, pages 909-23.
  • Authors, (October 10, 2017) “Worldwide trends in body-mass index, underweight, overweight, and obesity from 1975 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 2416 population-based measurement studies in 128·9 million children, adolescents, and adults”. The Lancet, Volume 300, Issue 10113, pages 2628-2642 [Accessed 10 January 2019]
  • Vanhees L, Lefevre J, Philippaerts R, Martens M, Huygens W, Troosters T, Beunen G. (2005) “How to assess physical activity? How to assess physical fitness?” Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil, 12, 102-14.
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