Do you remember playing outside with your neighborhood friends until the street lights came on? Today, our children don’t play like we used to. The playgrounds and parks aren’t as busy as they once were, and kids are not out running, skateboarding and biking around the neighborhood like they used to.
Has childhood moved indoors? What has changed?
There are many reasons kids don’t play outdoors as much as they used to. Kids today are busier than ever with schoolwork and scheduled activities like sports and music lessons. And the world is believed to be a more dangerous place today, leading many parents to cite safety as a major barrier to outdoor play, even though crime rates are similar (if not lower) to what they were in the 1970s.
It seems like outdoor play for kids has been engineered out of modern life, with video games, television, the Internet, smartphones and spending too much time in the car driving from one scheduled activity to another.
With fewer than 20 percent of American children meeting the physical activity guidelines of both 60 minutes of physical activity every day and muscle-strengthening activities at least three days a week, play might be one of the easiest, most affordable and fun ways for kids to get moving. In fact, the average American boy or girl spends just four to seven minutes each day in unstructured outdoor play, and more than seven hours each day in front of a screen.
The result is that our kids are out of shape, tuned out (and plugged in), and stressed out because they are missing out on all the benefits of outdoor play.
Most of the benefits of outdoor play are obvious: fresh air, more exercise (and a lower incidence of obesity), getting along with others, and a sense of belonging to a community. Outdoor play can have other health benefits, such as improving distance vision and lowering the chance of nearsightedness. Outdoor activities can be enjoyed in a variety of locations and are often less expensive and more accessible, and can foster life-long activity.
Let’s not make outdoor play extinct. We need to make it a daily habit to say these four words to our youth: “Go outside and play.”
Ask Fit Life
PEOPLE WHO EXERCISE ARE HEALTHIER THAN THOSE WHO DON’T, BUT DO THEY ACTUALLY LIVE LONGER?
Almost any amount of regular exercise promotes longevity. People who walk briskly for 75 minutes each week can add almost two years to their life, compared to non-exercisers. And it gets better. Those who walk 150 minutes/week can gain 3.4 years of life on average. The people who increased their life span the most walked 43 minutes a day, lengthening their life by an average of four years. (Note to runners and other vigorous exercisers: You receive the same benefit, but in about half the time.)
E-mail fitness and healthy aging expert Heather A. Hausenblas, associate professor of exercise science at Jacksonville University’s College of Health Sciences, with your questions at email@example.com. For more on JU’s Department of Sport and Exercise Science programs, visit ju.edu/COHS.