Outdoor swing set play helps kids meet the national fitness standard

The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition sets guidelines for Americans 6 and older by age group for what amount of physical activity brings substantial health benefits. But a new study shows that according to those guidelines, kids ages 5-10 are not getting nearly enough exercise.

Children and adolescents ages 6–17 should accumulate one hour or more of physical activity daily, according to the guidelines. The one hour of activity should be mostly aerobic but should also include muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activities such as hanging from monkey bars, swinging on swing sets or climbing up angled walls on playsets. Swing sets can incorporate climbing in a variety of ways, including ladders, rungs, stairs, steps, platforms and handles.

Activities such as swinging on a swing set or climbing on monkey bars make muscles do more work than usual during activities of daily life. This is called “overload,” and it strengthens the muscles. Muscle-strengthening can be accomplished in unstructured or structured (such as working with resistance bands.)

But a new study of more than 1,600 parents by the YMCA of the USA, also known as Y-USA, shows that three out of four children ages 5 to 10 get less than one hour of physical activity daily.

Some other statistics from the survey:

  • About 41% of parents say their kids get 60 minutes of exercise less than one day a week.
  • About 50% of children 5-10 are watching at least two hours of TV a day more than five days a week, and spending an hour in front of a computer three days a week.
  • 58% of parents say their children ages 5 to 10 spend fewer than four days a week playing outdoors. Here’s a snapshot of the survey: http://www.ymca.net/news-releases/20110413-survey.pdf. Outdoor play provides a host of physical benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, reduced stress and an improvement in overall fitness and psychological health.

The statistics point out the importance of setting national guidelines and in educating parents, who heavily influence children’s decisions to play outside.

Children and adolescents who do not meet the guidelines should slowly increase their activity in small steps and in ways that they enjoy.

The Council aims to engage, educate and empower all Americans to adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and good nutrition.  For more information about the Council and its members, visit www.fitness.gov