What do we say to youth about exercise?

April 13, 2011 GUEST BLOG POST by Elliot Searer

In many previous studies, we have found out that a healthy balance of diet and exercise is the most efficient way of staying healthy.  I feel more emphasis needs to be put on children and how much physical activity they receive, and if they are even coming close to the recommended 60 minutes per day.  I feel that organizations, like YMCAs, should offer more opportunities for our youth to have a place to properly exercise. Questions I have are:

Do our youth have proper access to a clean, safe environment suitable for physical activity and play?  Do our youth understand the importance of physical activity from a health perspective?  Do our youth have access to information that answers their questions about different exercises or exercise equipment?  Do children understand the importance of nutrition in order to gain the most from their physical activity?  Are youth who lived in dirty, unsafe conditions permitted to exercise at facilities like YMCAs despite possibly not having the proper financial means?

In a study conducted by Bowman and Neal, particpants between 5 and 17 years of age were scheduled to attend nutrition classes only or nutrition classes and family YMCA membership. The primary outcome measure was change in BMI-for-age percentile.  Four participants in the control group and one in the treatment group achieved the target reduction of 2 BMI percentile points.  Within the treatment group overall, YMCA attendees had a mean increase of 0.30 BMI points compared with an increase of 0.60 BMI points in nonattendees.  Questions I have about the study in particular are:

1) In what type of shape, physically, were the eligible participants in before the experiment?  2) After? 3)  What type of guidance was received from YMCA workers or someone of a trainer’s capability?

Through my personal experiences as an athlete, I find it extremely surprising that better results weren’t seen.   The study states that some of the participants didn’t even go to the YMCA despite having a paid membership.  I would like to know what type of guidance they were getting.  For example, if they were doing proper exercises to promote weight loss or if they even knew how to properly operate the equipment and machines. 

I feel a lot more can be done by communities to stress getting the 60 minutes of daily physical activity.  Organizations should take a stronger stance and venture out in the community, and set up activities in parks or rec sites.  It wouldn’t be hard, and would be low cost.  Also, the organizations may not even have to use their facilities as host sites for the gatherings.  Getting our youth out in the community, learning how to properly take care of themselves through physical activity could possibly lead to more benefits.  Better eating habits, spreading nutrition information to other family members, and overall healthier communities may encourage children to pursue sports or other careers based on exercise/play as opposed to sitting at home…

M. A. Bowman and A. V. Neal;  Policy and Financing in Family Medicine and the Medical Home.  J Am Board Fam Med, May 1, 2010; 23(3): 277 – 279.

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7 Responses to “What do we say to youth about exercise?”

  1. Alan Mars says:

    After reading this blog I thought back to my childhood because I was always outside with my two brothers and sister and I wanted to figure out what my parents did to encourage so much outside activity. I actually realized that it wasn’t what they encouraged, but rather what they took away.

    As children, my siblings and me were limited to a small amount of television per day and a small amount of video games per week. And simply by taking things away we had to figure out something fun to do so naturally it was going outside. We even got used to playing in inclement weather (nothing wrong with getting a little dirty right?) Granted it wasn’t too hard for my family to go outside because we loved playing sports but I think this “limiting concept” can really work with any child.

  2. Ahjine Garmony (Beta Team) says:

    i do think it is important for children to have regular exercise. As the post mentioned, 60 min of daily active activity should be stressed. I don’t think for children it will be too hard to reach this goal as long as the activities are diverse and fun. I know in my hometown there is a program called EDP (extended day program) for children who need somewhere to go after school. This program is designed for parents who work late or don’t want their children to be alone in the house after school. Programs like this are good because EDP emphasizes physical activity along with other interactive activities through the day of the program. If there were more programs like this, children would look forward to working out with peers and wouldn’t really look at it as a chore, but more as a fun experience.

  3. Mario Eramo (Beta Team) says:

    I think it is very important for kids to be getting 60 minutes of exercise in daily. It is vitale to their health and growth, and just helps to have them develope more. I see kids these days staying inside playing video games all day instead of getting outside and exercising. Part of that problem is that parents are scared about society today and are afraid of leaving thier kids outside alone. Okay understandable but as parents they need to understand what is best for thier kids, and gettting exercise is very important. Its cant be that bad for a parents to take 60 mins out of thier day to take their kids outside and if they are worried about their safety, then take them to a park. I just finde it rediculous for kids not to be outside running around having fun everyday. Its so important for that kids developments both physically and socially.

  4. Shaan Saini says:

    I believe that it is critical for our youth to exercise regularly. Naturally, children have more energy than adults and they should be able to disperse that energy through physical activity. Sadly, we have heard that schools around the country are cutting these programs out of the curriculum due to budget issues. This can lead to a more sedentary lifestyle in their later years and can have a dangerous effect on their health. Elliot, I completely agree with you that other organizations such as YMCA should take a stronger initiative to get children active. As technology advances and the computer and television become more utilized during the day, we should all put in more effort to get our exercise.

  5. Bobby Jacobs says:

    I think that it is very important for younger children to be active and exercise regularly. I recall when I was younger I would always be outside running around with my parents, siblings, or neighbors. Although I think that children should be outside running around and being active, I do not blame the inactive children for their lack of exercise. A child that does not get the proper amount of exercise, I believe, is in direct correlation of their parents. A young child cannot drive themselves to the YMCA or other facilities like these, and therefore it is up to the parents to help their children out. Take away the video games and give the child a football and play catch with them. The children are the direct result of the parent and therefore, in order to combat this problem I believe that parents must be more educated on the issue.

  6. Kyle Jackson says:

    I believe Bobby Jacob strikes a great point. It is necessary for children to be active at least one hour a day. Bobby reminded me of how active I was when i was growing up. I remember being a child and aching to play kick ball or any sports during recess. If I had any free time at all I would want to go run around or climb trees outside. It’s almost a shame that some children don’t exercise and rather sit and watch television. I believe that parents and teachers should influence the social cognitive theory on behave of them by urging them to exercise more throughly.

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