A local columnist in our community recently coined a new term for children and adolescents who spend excessive amounts of time on their tablets and cell phones: thumb potatoes. He bemoaned the fact that instead of playing outside, kids are increasingly spending more time playing with electronics.
Gone are the glory days of parenting when all we had to worry about was monitoring the television. Now, kids have access to all things sedentary in the electronic world, and this can be a huge negative when it comes to their future bone health.
According to a recent article in the New York Times Well blog, by the age of 20, girls have reached 90-96% of their peak bone mass; boys reach theirs several years later.
Even more eye-opening than this is that 26% of bone mass accrues in two short year; the average age this occurs in girls and boys is 12.5 and 14.1 years, respectively. This is roughly the amount of bone mass they’ll LOSE between the ages of 50 and 80.
In addition to eating foods rich in calcium (broccoli, dairy products, sardines and salmon with bones), children need to be physically active in order to keep their bones healthy and strong in later life.
Certainly, encouraging our kids to become more active and providing a home environment that’s conducive to an active lifestyle is the obvious solution here, but how parents do that when all of those awesome ipad games are beckoning them to literally do nothing but sit and twiddle their thumbs?
- Go outside with them. Children are social creatures and they want to spend time with their parents; going outdoors with them encourages them to stay outside a little longer.
- Encourage them to play newer, active electronic games (PlayStation Move, Microsoft Xbox Kinect). In an excellent article on a recent study published in the online journal BMJ Open, Marie Ellis writes that children replaced sedentary games with active ones increased their activity level and reduced sedentary time as much, if not slightly more than kids who were not allowed to play with electronic games at all.
Have any creative suggestions for keeping the kids active?