How much time do you spend sitting each day? Probably more than you’d care to. Many of us spend the vast majority of our time every day seated – usually in front of a screen of some kind.
Unfortunately, all this sitting is a major contributor to poor health. And it’s not just adults who have gone sedentary. Kids are in on the trend, too, with screen time up and physical activity is down. As the authors of a recent paper in Obesity Facts noted, surveys have shown that 6- to 11-year olds are inactive for roughly 6.4 hours a day. Among teens, that jumps to nearly 8 hours a day.
Physical activity, on the other hand, is declining. Of boys between 3 and 10 years of age, 11.7% participate in sports less than once or twice a week, and 11.7% do not engage in any sports at all, with even lower levels of physical inactivity in girls of the same age
Suffice it to say, those numbers are going in the wrong direction.
Ideally, screen time should be balanced with more opportunities for kids to keep moving. Their developing bodies and minds need physical activity. Too much screen time, on the other hand, can make inactivity seem the norm. It encourages sedentary behavior.
So what can we do to reduce screen time? A few ideas:
Many kids are sent to watch TV or play on a tablet while the adults prepare dinner. Try to involve the kids by having them help cook or set the table.
Eat dinner together at the table, away from the TV. It’s a great opportunity for talking with each other about how your day went and what you did and saw, as well as making plans for the following day or week.
Incorporate a family activity after dinner such as a neighborhood walk or light yoga. Yoga Calm is one of several excellent programs of yoga for kids. Or play a game together rather than watching a TV show or movie. Many simple card and board games can be played at practically any age.
Put some coloring or activity books out on the table or floor to occupy the kids during busy moments rather than sitting them in front of the TV or putting a tablet in their hands.
The American Academy of Pediatricians provides guidelines for screen time, harnessing the good digital media can do while keeping screens from completely dominating your child’s waking hours. Again, balance is key.
For sedentary time may also contribute to chronic inflammation – and where there’s chronic inflammation, there’s usually gum disease. In fact, inflammation is one of the things that links gum disease to a whole host of systemic health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and some cancers.
Simply put, supporting a health body supports a healthy mouth.
Image by Nick Olejniczak