Posted by The Vigilant Mom on November 17, 2011
The other day my husband pointed out that if we ever decide to move and buy a new house, one thing we won’t need is a yard.
I think he’s a little bitter. Years ago, we spent a considerable amount of our combined life savings on a house with a yard so the kids would have a place to play. The problem, lately, is that getting them outside to play has become another nagging-fueled, tearful, guilt-inducing, whining marathon of an argument. I have been forced to confront the fact that somehow two former gym-goers, two people who have hiked and backpacked their way around quite a few continents, have somehow managed to raise insistent couch potatoes.
My kids are not alone. Apparently Juvenile Couch Potato Syndrome is rampant in the U.S. The average American child watches 3 hours of television a day. And when you factor in computer games, video games and iPad surfing, they are spending 5.5 hours a day planted in front of an electronic screen. Now, we do limit screen time, so that’s not the problem at our house. They would just rather read or draw than run around outside. Read and draw? Is that so bad?
Not at all. But the fact remains: Exercise really does have so many benefits that your child should, according to experts and doctors, be getting at least sixty minutes a day. Studies have shown that kids who exercise regularly have better muscle tone and stronger bones. They have less of a risk of being overweight or developing Type 2 diabetes, they have lower cholesterol and blood pressure — and they are actually happier! Children who get regular exercise sleep better, have better self-esteem, experience less stress and have better concentration skills. And some studies have even shown that girls who get regular physical activity lower their risk of developing breast cancer and osteoporosis later in life.
After learning all of that, I snapped into drill sergeant mode. I pulled my kids from their various perches around the house and marched them into the yard. We did frog-leaping and bunny-hopping races, and ran backwards and forwards. We timed how long it took them to skip from one end of the yard to the other and held wheelbarrow races. We did jumping jacks and walked like mummies. And afterwards? They wanted to stay and play in the yard for a while. Victory! Happier kids, healthier kids, a less bitter husband and a yard that’s seeing a little love. And the added bonus? I got a workout, too.