Sitting Too Long Is Bad for Kids’ Health

Posted 11/02/2015 | By HealthCorps

There was an advertisement many years ago that would flash before the late evening news, “Do you know where your children are?” It was aimed at parents, to raise awareness that we need to know where our kids are, and what they’re doing, especially in the late night hours. A new study suggests we should now be asking, “How many hours do your kids sit daily?” A new study suggests that too many hours of sitting is bad for kids’ health.

A prior study in the British Medical Journal suggested that adults need to avoid sitting for too long. If we don’t move often during the day, the risk rises for certain health changes in our body that predispose us to disease. The telomere length of certain cells in our body is associated with healthy lifestyle and longevity. The BMJ study showed that prolonged sitting causes telomeres in our body to lengthen. When telomere length is longer, our overall lifespan may be shortened.

A new study now suggests that kids who sit for too long periods of time may have similar, adult-type health consequences. The study, which focused on girls between the ages of 9 and 12, found that girls who had prolonged periods of sitting time or inactivity showed changes in their blood flow and arteries. Those changes, if found in grown-ups, would indicate the beginning of serious heart disease.

Unique to this particular study was the fact that even if the person (child or adult) exercised daily, the worrisome changes remained if much of the rest of the day was sedentary in nature. That means that even if you exercise in the morning or evening, but sit the rest of the day at a desk job, rarely getting up, you would be at risk for these significant and unhealthy blood vessel changes. That also means that if your child plays a sport for an hour or two a day, but sits in school and at home for the rest of their waking hours, they too are at risk of developing these early, ominous heart-risk provoking changes.

A recent epidemiological, large-scale study found that kids globally are sitting for most of the day (on average 8.5 hours). Specifically, movement and activity really drops after age 8. That’s of course, when school, homework and tech devices take over your kids’ lives.

What are some easy ways to get kids moving throughout the day?

Get very young children up during every commercial when they watch programs on TV so they become accustomed to movement during long sitting periods. Give older kids quick chores or things to do during commercials.

Have a home rule that whenever kids sit for an hour, they then have to move for ten to fifteen minutes. That means TV, computer, tech time all get “interrupted.”

Tell kids to take advantage of class break time to get up and stretch and encourage them to save some lunch time for a quick walk, playtime outdoors if it’s allowed, and climbing stairs.

Fill weekend time with physical activities. Make sure the kids have several hours a day of fun playtime and sports activities as well as household chores like mowing the lawn, raking leaves, collecting garbage and taking it out, helping to wash the car or house windows.

Model the behaviors so kids see you doing it too!!

British Medical Journal
NY Times
Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine

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