There are many reasons for this – an old European study highlighted that obesity in kids directly correlated with the number of hours of TV that they watched per day. And they also showed that if the overweight kids were “forced” to watch less hours of TV per day their weight dropped – this was independent of making them do exercise instead of watching TV. It was almost as if TV had a direct effect of making them put on weight – it wasn’t about them just sitting down and being inactive. (although recent studies in adults have shown that prolonged sitting can be just as bad as smoking in reducing lifespan!) I remember in my medical student days that we were told the human brain can use as much blood supply as exercising muscles – perhaps it means we’re not using our brains at all when we watch TV! I can’t wait for the studies comparing the usage of our brain (and metabolic rate) with watching TV vs playing video games vs reading blogs like this one vs checking your Facebook notifications. I think you get the point – unless you’re playing Wii Fit or Sports or on a treadmill or stationary cycle watching TV you’re probably not using up much energy for your muscles or your brain looking at LCD screens for hours on end. Plus of course there are the snacks you are eating while you’re watching junk food ads….
So how many hours do your kids spend each day looking at electronic media?
The Australian Sports Commission understands that times are changing and we have to get our kids off their backsides and doing physical activity instead of sitting down in front of computers, TVs and video games. They’ve just introduced Play.Sport.Australia A New Participation Platform which recognises that our sporting organisations are now trying to compete with electronic media and at the moment we all know who is winning the battle. They are trying to make organisations aware of this and update the way they do things – including having modified games to make it more fun for kids to play organised sport. Have a look at their game plan e-book here.
So is that the answer to our kids getting the recommended 1 hour of physical activity per day? As I see it there are a few options and I think for most kids it’s good to have a mix of these:
1) A paid organised after school activity such as a team sport. Since I returned to living in Canberra I realised that one or more parents have a full time job chauffeuring their kids to these things between 5-7 days a week. That didn’t happen in Sydney – probably because of traffic – but in Canberra since everything is 15 minutes away if you don’t do this for your kids everyday or close to it, you feel that your kids are missing out…..Pros: your kids learn about playing by the rules, being part of a team, winning and losing. Cons: They can be expensive and as your kids get better and start joining rep squads both you and your kids will spend more time in the car than on the field. Some can also be very competitive – it seems as though unless you are good enough for a rep squad then there’s no use playing at all – no-one plays for fun anymore. Plus your kids will learn how much parents value winning and losing….
I don’t want to bag out paid organised after school activities too much since I run one myself… as I said I think having a mix is good.
2) GOAP. When I was the doctor for the Canberra Raiders NRL squad I had a conversation with Leigh Woodbridge, the strength and conditioning coach and asked him what was the best activity a kid could do to manage weight. He replied: GOAP. Go Outside And Play. So Woody – this blog entry is a tribute to you! Sure you can try and organise it a bit with play days, structured games, etc.. but really why not just let them go crazy in the backyard. Finds things to do with balls, nonmotorised things with wheels, trampolines. No backyard or too small?– go to the neighbourhood oval with a ball of some sort. If you are reading this and you’re a parent – try and remember what you did as a kid. You found things to do, you invented your own games with your siblings, friends or just by yourself. Pros: Cheap, generally less time in the car, uses brains and muscles. Often noncompetitive. Your kids can all play together rather than on separate teams and days. Cons: They’ll probably get dirty and maybe even hurt themselves and there is no public liability insurance so you can’t sue anyone if anything happens.
Wait a minute – the title of this blog entry was Exercising with Kids, not exercises for your kids. That’s because I’m selfish – I need to exercise too. With option 1 and 2 above I don’t want to just stand there and watch! So if your kid is at a paid organised after school activity and if they are old enough that you can leave them there use that time not to check your emails but go to the gym or go for a run. What about with GOAP? To hear more about how you can all get a workout together tune in to next week for Exercising with Kids part 2: We can all GOAP.
In the meantime tell us your tricks for getting your kids off their backsides and away from the screens!