Worried your kids aren’t getting enough fresh air and exercise? You’re not alone. Inactivity in children is an issue many parents and health care providers are concerned with. According to the Center for Disease Control, in the U.S, approximately 17 percent of all kids (ages 2-19) are obese. Environmental factors are mostly to blame, such as poor eating habits and a lack of physical activity. With an increasing number of electronic devices for kids to glue their eyes to, it’s easier than ever for children to find entertainment that requires little movement. An article in the New York Times recently stated “children ages 8 to 18 spend more than seven and a half hours a day with such devices”. Today, children are eating more and moving less, which puts them at risk of becoming over-weight or obese. Now is the time to form healthy habits and start moving!
The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) recognizes the need to get children outdoors and is taking action through their Children and Nature Initiative. The ultimate goal of the program is to encourage parents, doctors, teachers, and organizations to get kids outside for their own health. According to NEEF, “Research indicates that unstructured outdoor activities may improve children’s health by increasing physical activity, reducing stress and serving as a support mechanism for attention disorders.” This program encourages pediatric health care providers to prescribe outdoor activities to children. It also connects medical professionals with local nature sites, so when doctors prescribe outdoor exercise, they can recommend safe and easily accessible outdoor areas. From there, it’s up to the parents to take the lead and help encourage kids to exchange screen time for outdoor play.
Forming healthy habits includes using sun protection on a regular basis, especially when being active outdoors. Kids get between 50 to 80 percent of their lifetime sun exposure before age 18, and unprotected sun exposure can lead to health problems such as skin cancer later in life. To keep outdoor playtime safe, use the SunAWARE acronym:
Help your kids start good habits at an early age. Be SunAWARE and get outdoors!
Photo courtesy of Micheal Newton and VA State Park Staff.