By Jonathon Stavres MS, ACSM-EP-C
Childhood physical activity is at the center of a large discussion and the focal point of a large body of research. It is understood that childhood obesity generally translates to obesity during adulthood, and general physical activity habits translate from childhood to adulthood. Therefore, a question of emphasis become, how can we combat childhood obesity and get children to be physically active at a young age?
Today’s youth have more access to sedentary game play (i.e. video games) than ever before. Inspiring children to be physically active can prove very difficult considering the alternative options. One method of increasing physical activity is by increasing the number of options available at any given time.
A study by Sanders et al. (2016) compared physical activity in twenty children between two 30 minute periods; one period with eight different play-options, and one with two different play options. The physical activity during the session with eight options was higher than the physical activity during the session with two options, therefore suggesting that simply increasing the availability of physical activity will promote more actual activity.
This could be applied by adding a basketball hoop in your driveway, putting a swing-set in the back yard, or even just by buying a handful of soccer balls or footballs. However, increasing options isn’t the only thing you could do.
Another study by Barkley et al. (2014) compared physical activity levels in young children between a session where the child was alone, and a session when they were with a friend. When with a friend, children were 54% more active (quantified via accelerometer counts) than when they were alone.
Similar results were observed by Rebold et al. (2016) when parental involvement in physical activity was compared to session with non-parental involvement. In this study, children were more active when parents were physically active with them as compared to when parents were only present and observing, and when parents were not present at all.
The studies presented here suggest that you could increase your child’s physical activity by increasing physical activity options, providing a peer to join in activity, and by being physically active with your child yourself. Furthermore, increasing your child’s physical activity now might improve their quality of life in the future.
** Click Here to listen to our most popular PAST podcast-Kids and Play: Importance of Physical Activity early on with Dr. Jacob Barkley PhD, an Associate Professor at Kent State University in the Dept. of Health Sciences/Exercise Science. He gives more tips on how to get our children active at a younger age… Enjoy!
Barkley, J. E., Salvy, S. J., Sanders, G. J., Dey, S., Von Carlowitz, K. P., & Williamson, M. L. (2014). Peer influence and physical activity behavior in young children: an experimental study. J Phys Act Health, 11(2), 404-409. doi: 10.1123/jpah.2011-0376
Rebold, M. J., Lepp, A., Kobak, M. S., McDaniel, J., & Barkley, J. E. (2016). The Effect of Parental Involvement on Children’s Physical Activity. J Pediatr, 170, 206-210. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2015.11.072
Sanders, G. J., Juvancic-Heltzel, J., Williamson, M. L., Roemmich, J. N., Feda, D. M., & Barkley, J. E. (2016). The Effect of Increasing Autonomy Through Choice on Young Children’s Physical Activity Behavior. J Phys Act Health, 13(4), 428-432. doi: 10.1123/jpah.2015-0171