Nike has never been afraid of controversy in their advertisements. Throughout the years, they have produced some provocative, and thought provoking ads. One of the first ones I can recall was back in 1993 and featured Sir Charles Barkley, the infamous, I am not a Role Model Campaign.
Kids look up to professional athletes for what they do in their sport. Emulating a superstar for their abilities to dribble a ball, or shoot a puck, or kick a ball, are admirable for any youth to want to imitate, however, when it comes to daily life, children look to those closest to them as their muse.
The inactivity among kids today is prevalent, and it is at the expense of their own health, since physical activity is one of the most significant influencers of child health. If there was a pill which would miraculously improve academic performance, improved behavior and improve sleep in children, how much would parents pay for that? Well, there is no need for a pill, and the solution is free. Increased physical activity will lead to all three of these things.
PE in school is underdeveloped and underfunded. Too little time is spent being active (my 6 year old only gets 2 classes (~30-40 minutes) of Phys Ed a week in first grade), and more time in school is spent at desks. This sedentary time does not decrease as kids get older, it only decreases, and in some schools PE stops in high school. The amount of time children of all ages spend in front of a screen is increasing. Kids 8 years and younger on average spend 2 hours and 19 minutes in front of a screen. Teens, rack up 9 hours of media, per day, not including school and homework. The increased screen time, and less physical activity, is correlated with lower psychological well being, so not only is physical health but mental health is also being affected by inactivity. Our society will have a hefty price to pay in the future for the lack of exercise in today’s youths.
Luckily, there is a solution, and the solution is increased physical activity. Physical activity should be modeled by those at the forefront of enriching children’s lives. Parents, other family members, teachers, etc. all should serve as the role models for health and well-being in our kids. Parents who exercise and are physically active, and eat a diet rich in non-processed foods, are more likely to have kids who are physically active and have proper nutrition. Personally, my parents did not exercise, and I grew up a fat kid from drinking gallons of Kool-aid, however, my uncle lifted weights, and got me started with exercise, and my parents always cooked nutritious food, and from them I learned my way around the kitchen so I am able to cook nutritious food for myself and my children.
Too many times I see sedentary parents. Parents willing to taxi their children from activity to activity, but not setting the example for their children for long term success, by showing that exercise is important by modeling exercise themselves. The appeal of many youth sports wears off from many children as they grow older. What will they end up doing with their free time once organized sports ends? What do they do with their free time when organized sports is not going on? Are they active or are they sedentary with their faces in a screen? What kind of children do you want to have? Active and psychologically sound, or sedentary and lacking in self esteem?
Think your kids ARE active? The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines recommends children ages 6-13 get:
- Cardiovascular exercise on most days of at least 60 minutes, participating in moderate to vigorous exercise. (walking briskly, jogging, skipping rope, biking, or ball sports)
- Muscle strengthening exercises, ie. resistance training and calisthenics, at least 3 days a week
- Bone strengthening exercise, such as tumbling or jumping rope, at least 3 days a week
Research also shows that younger children, ages 1-4 get 180 minutes of movement skill activities a day. Chances are your kids are not getting the activity they require!
I am a role model to my children. I engage in physical activity, both inside and outside the gym, and I take my kids with me when I do. We do our best to eat a clean and healthy diet, and I am always educating my kids on what is good food to make them strong. I encourage sound sleep and control their screen time, TV and Ipads are the exception, not the norm. Complacent parents lead to complacent kids, so be extraordinary for your children. Model a lifestyle of health and well being so your children can be healthy and well when they are your age now.
Children are great imitators, so give them something great to imitate.
About the Author
Judah Boulet is the Owner and Program Director at Parisi Speed School of Rhode Island. Judah is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach and Head Rugby Coach at Bryant University. Judah holds a Master’s Degree in Pharmacology and Toxicology from The University of Rhode Island a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Siena College.