It seems that adults aren't the only ones not getting enough exercise. Lack of physical activity has spread to the youth. According to a YMCA national online survey of 1,630 parents, 74 percent of children ages 5-10 get less than an hour of exercise every day. Parents cite the reasons as a lack of finances, a lack of time and the influence of technology.
Let's tackle the first reason: a lack of finances. The majority of the surveyed parents said that extracurricular activities were important for their children, but at least half of the parents cut back on the very activities they say are important. To be fair, the recession has caused many parents to trim their budgets, which often means cutting back on expensive extracurricular activities. However, the survey found that 42 percent of parents said that their main concern for their children's future was financial security. Parents want their kids to be financially fit, but how financially fit will they be if they aren't first physically fit?
This brings us to the next two reasons: lack of time and the influence of technology. Parents say that between school and work, there's just not enough time for children to get the recommended hour of exercise per day. I don't buy it, considering these same parents reported that their children watch TV at least two hours per day, five days per week and spend an hour on the computer at least three days per week. That equates to 13 hours that could have been spent being physically active. Just half that time would get children to their recommended weekly physical activity.
The problem is parents' mindsets. Parents graded themselves high for providing a healthy environment for their children, but they don't practice healthy habits themselves. About 40 percent of parents exercise for an hour or less once a week, and only 16 percent get a good night's sleep. Less than one-third spend one day per week outside being physically active. How do parents expect children to grow up healthy when they themselves aren't setting the right example?
The majority of the surveyed parents (74 percent) said that they prefer watching television as a family activity. It's not really a coincidence then that 74 percent of children don't get enough exercise. Parents tend to blame technology for their kids' lack of motivation. Well, here's an idea: Take away the technology or set limits on the use of cell phones, remote controls and gaming systems.
Fitness facility operators can help parents by offering summer camps and after-school activities. These activities need to make being physically active fun for everyone. And, they need to be reasonably priced so that everyone who wants to participate can do so.