December 17th, 2018
The past few weeks, I have noticed children and adults roaming public places with their heads down and eyes glued to their phones. Yes, they are “playing” the latest device craze, Pokemon Go! While some argue a waste of time, others promote it as “getting kids out of the house and into the park to play.” I’m not so sure I agree with the “play” part as growing up, when we went outside to play, it was usually kickball, a pickup game of basketball or climbing the crabapple tree in the next-door neighbors’ yard.
So, this craze got me thinking—“is the popular electronic exercise sufficient to be considered a healthy physical activity?”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, children and adolescents (ages 6-17) should do 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of physical activity each day.
There are three types of physical activity and sadly, Pokemon Go doesn’t seem to fall into any of these.
Aerobic activity should make up most of your child’s 60 or more minutes of physical activity each day. This can include either moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, or vigorous-intensity activity, such as running. Be sure to include vigorous-intensity aerobic activity on at least 3 days per week.
The CDC recommends including muscle strengthening activities, such as gymnastics or push-ups, at least 3 days per week as part of your child’s 60 or more minutes.
Bone strengthening activities, such as jumping rope or running, are recommended at least 3 days per week as part of your child’s 60 or more minutes.
How do you know if your child’s activity is considered “aerobic” or simply just normal? Consider against these two points to gauge intensity:
On a scale of 0 to 10, where sitting is a 0 and the highest level of activity is a 10, moderate-intensity activity is a 5 or 6. When your son does moderate-intensity activity, his heart will beat faster than normal and he will breathe harder than normal. Vigorous-intensity activity is a level 7 or 8. When your son does vigorous-intensity activity, his heart will beat much faster than normal and he will breathe much harder than normal.
Type of Activity
Another way to judge intensity is to think about the activity your child is doing and compare it to the average child. What amount of intensity would the average child use? For example, when your daughter walks to school with friends each morning, she’s probably doing moderate-intensity aerobic activity. But while she is at school, when she runs, or chases others by playing tag during recess, she’s probably doing vigorous-intensity activity.
Then you may ask, what is an “age appropriate” activity? Many are confused and, a child’s frame cannot handle the load of weight lifting (not to mention, it can be dangerous). Here is what the CDC recommends:
Some physical activity is better-suited for children than adolescents. For example, children do not usually need formal muscle-strengthening programs, such as lifting weights. Younger children usually strengthen their muscles when they do gymnastics, play on a jungle gym or climb trees. As children grow older and become adolescents, they may start structured weight programs. For example, they may do these types of programs along with their football or basketball team practice.
For a comprehensive grid on activities and age groups, I recommend visiting https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/children/what_counts.htm . Here, you’ll find a variety of options based on your child’s age and intensity which will help the whole family become healthier and stronger (and, if there’s a Pokemon hiding on the tennis court, all the better!).
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