Young Children are Getting Less Exercise than We Thought

We hear it all the time – kids today aren’t getting enough exercise.

Now, a recent study said the age in which physical activity drops off for most kids is younger than experts originally thought.

The study looked at data on 600 children between the ages of 6-11.

Experts previously thought most children became less active during their teenage years. However, this latest research found many of the children saw a decrease in physical activity, as well as an increase in sedentary time, at age eight.

An even larger drop-off in exercise occurred once those children reached age 11.

Eva Love, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic Children’s did not take part in the study, but said too much sitting sets children up for health problems early on.

“It’s not only important because the children are not exercising, it’s that they’re sitting, and they’re actually not clearing certain metabolites in the blood,” she said. “This increases health risks for type two diabetes and cardiac disease down the road – and even in younger children we’re seeing that.”

Dr. Love said some of the increase in sedentary time can be attributed to the prevalence of electronic devices. She said children are not expending any energy at all when they’re playing video games or watching screens.

And while Dr. Love admits it’s not reasonable for most families to avoid screen-time all together, she believes it’s important for parents to set limits and expectations on how much time is appropriate for using them.

“Make sure that you’re being thoughtful about how much time your child is spending on that device,” she said. “It happens – you get home, things get busy; things start to slip – it’s a reality; but I think we need to be more cognizant, as this data strongly suggests, that not only is this happening earlier, but we can start to see real health risks related to that.”

Dr. Love reminds parents that children do not have to be involved in organized sports to be active.  She said it can be helpful to re-direct children from their devices and find an activity to do alongside with them.

“There’s something to be said for tandem involvement – which is getting parents co-involved with their children,” she said. “If their children don’t like sports, then I ask parents, ‘Why don’t you guys go for a walk together every day?’”

Complete results of the study can be found in Pediatrics.