When I started school in the 1970s one of the most exciting things about it was walking to school with my older sister. Rain hail or shine we walked the 1.5 km to school. I loved the frosty mornings when you could jump on frozen puddles to crack the ice and the slow walk home with friends planning whose house we would go play at.
Jump ahead to 2016 and only one in five children walk to school in Victoria according to Vic Health’s Walk to School webpage. With October being the Walk to School month it is timely to look at the implications of children not getting enough exercise.
Currently 25% of children in Australia are classed as overweight or obese. Obese children have up to 50% chance of being obese adults.
A combined effect of poor dietary habits and reduced activity has increased health risks for children who are overweight including increased risk of joint issues, snoring and sleep apnoea, low self-esteem, and behavioural issues. Even those conditions such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes normally associated with adults are increased in these children.
Here are a few hints to tackle the activity side of the weight issue.
* Children need at least an hour of activity a day. Walking to and from school is a great way to add daily exercise. Consideration of the child’s age is important as to whether they need adult supervision. Teach your children about road safety and stranger danger to keep them safe.
* Set good examples for your children. Children who see their parents exercising are more likely to develop lifelong habits. Walk the family dog together, kick the footy on the backyard and ride bikes along local bike paths are all cheap and convenient forms of exercise.
* Limit time on electronic devices such as game consoles, computers, phones and TV. Also by turning then off well before bed time, their sleep will improve.
* Allow children to try different sports and activities to find what they like. You may want them to play in the 2026 ALF grand final but if it’s not their thing, sport I’ll become something to avoid.
* Outdoor play time is also exercise. Playing in the autumn leaves, splashing in the local creek or building a cubby house outside are all fun things that burn calories and build strong healthy young bodies.
Introduce your own kids to the joy of stomping on a frozen puddle next winter. You never know you might even join in yourself and rediscover a little part of your own childhood.