An active lifestyle is important for everyone; an active lifestyle can help stave away obesity, heart disease, diabetes and more. But for young children, an active lifestyle is even more important. More importantly, a high level of activity is natural and expected for young children. Unfortunately, there are things that stand in the way of that natural order.
Bradley Cardinal, co-author of two new studies on how parenting style affects the activity level and television viewing habits of children explains:
“Toddlers and preschool-age children are spontaneous movers, so it is natural for them to have bursts of activity many minutes per hour. We find that when kids enter school, their levels of physical activity decrease, and overall, it continues to decline throughout their entire life. Early life involvement is imperative for establishing healthy, active lifestyles, self-awareness, social acceptance and even brain cognitive development.”
So how does parenting style come into play? Based on the study, published in the journal Early Child Development and Care, children watched an average of thirty extra minutes per day during the week and nearly an extra hour on the weekends if their parents weren’t home or if their parents didn’t spend a lot of time with them.
“A half hour each day may not seem like much,” said David Schary, the lead author of the study said. “But add that up over a week, then a month, then a year and you have a big impact. One child might be getting up to four hours more active play every week, and this sets the stage for the rest of their life.”
What was really interesting was that researchers found that children were most likely to be active on their own if their parents actively played with them. But even just watching them play seemed to boost their level of activity.
“When children are very young, playing is the main thing they do during waking hours, so parental support and encouragement is crucial,” Schary said. “So when we see preschool children not going outside much and sitting while playing…we need to help parents counteract that behavior.”
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