Young Sprouts: The Danger of Growing Couch Potatoes
It should come as no surprise that leading a sedentary lifestyle is not only harmful to adults, but to children as well. Yet from the age of 6, kids are forced to stay seated in school for hours at a time. Parents scold children to sit still in public places such as church, restaurants and concerts. With increasing amounts of screen time between the TV, video games and a computer or mobile device, this cycle continues at home. As childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes rise it is clear that we are doing something wrong.
A study in the United Kingdom suggests that children under 5 should only be sitting for 1-2 hours per day; kids 5 to 18 should be exercising for at least 60 minutes per day, especially those who are younger. Both age groups should remain sedentary only for a limited amount of time. But how can that possibly happen when kids are required to sit for 6-7 hours daily in classrooms?
When you sit all day your metabolism slows down. This can increase your risk of obesity as well as lower cognitive development. Reports also show that people are less productive when sitting for an extended time versus being able to get up and move about freely. By creating this pattern from an early age we are setting future generations up for health risks and stunted learning.
It has been revealed that leading a sedentary lifestyle and being obese are linked to spinal health issues. Health problems escalate as the beginning age for these behaviors continues to decrease. Children faced with spinal and back problems early on are subject to a host of conditions as they age. These early years are crucial for their growth and by allowing inactivity we are doing them a huge disservice.
There are several ways we can change the cycle of sedentary activity in the lives of children—the most important being reduced screen time. To limit the time children watch TV or play video games, consider ways for them to “earn” screen time. Also, set “no screen time” rules to encourage them to go outside and be active. Allow bedrooms to become a “no TV or computer” zone and set family limits for screen time. Another trick is to pick gifts such as scooters, skateboards, and soccer balls to promote activity.
It is beneficial to reduce the amount of time your child travels by car, bus, or train. Encourage riding the bike or walking to school and friends’ houses. You can also advocate to your school board or principal about implementing a longer recess or more hands-on activities that encourage movement in the classroom.
Another option is to take your child to a chiropractor as a preventative measure for their spinal and back health. It’s important to remember childrens’ bodies are constantly growing and it’s up to us to ensure they are as healthy as possible.
The idea that sitting is the new smoking does not apply solely to adults; it’s just as relevant, and even more dangerous, for young children and adolescents. With kids spending more time sitting than ever, at home and at school, it is crucial that we take the time to encourage activity to boost their spinal and overall health.