Children are getting weaker as they spend more time indoors on the computer rather than outside according to a recently published study in Acta Paediatrica. 10-year-olds may be adept at moving their fingers over keyboards and using their thumbs to text, but they are not able to do push-ups and hang from bars in gym class as they used to, says one of the study’s authors, Gavin Sandercock, a children’s fitness expert from Essex University. However, the children in the study had the same body mass index (BMI) as those a decade earlier; this suggests that, in view of their strength declining, their bodies are likely to contain more fat than muscle.
These are depressing findings, but they do seem to be corroborated by the realities of modern life, of children not able to play outside because of fears of safety, injury and — should a child be hurt falling out of some homeowner’s tree or on their driveway — lawsuits. Also, children in some urban settings can’t go outside to play as it’s simply too dangerous. Accordingly, the computer, the Wii, the TV and the like have replaced playgrounds for many.
The Guardian describes more of the researchers’ findings in studying a group of 315 10-year-olds in 2008 and 309 children the same age in 1998; both groups of children were from Essex:
-the number of sit-ups 10-year-olds could do declined by 27.1% between 1998 and 2008
-the children’s arm strength fell by 26% and grip strength by 7%
-while one in 20 children in 1998 could not hold their own weight when hanging from wall bars, one in 10 could not do so in 2008
Commenting on these findings, Dr. Sandercock says:
“This is probably due to changes in activity patterns among English 10-year-olds, such as taking part in fewer activities like rope-climbing in PE and tree-climbing for fun. Typically, these activities boosted children’s strength, making them able to lift and hold their own bodyweight.
The fact that 10% could not do the wall bars test and another 10% refused to try was “really shocking. That probably shows that climbing and holding their own weight was something they hadn’t done before.”
There’s no substitute for good old-fashioned physical activity in raising healthy children. My teenage son Charlie loves his iPad. But he also love to be outdoors riding his bike for miles, walking — and running — down the street, and swimming in ocean waves. My husband and I have made some extra efforts to keep Charlie active as he’s on the moderate to severe end of the autism spectrum. Daily physical activity has gone a long way in helping to improve his behavior issues. Plus, who wouldn’t feel a sense of self-confidence after biking (as Charlie did today) 17 miles in our neighborhood?
Care2 blogger Judy Molland writes regularly about keeping kids active in the great outdoors. Rather than throw up our hands in surrender that we’re raising a generation of weak kids, let’s all go out in the great outdoors and walk, run, bike, swim and breathe in the good fresh air, maybe even from the top of a tree — or a mountain we’ve hiked up all the way to the top.
Photo by USDAgov.