While you’re thinking about signing up for that fitness class or boot camp training, you might want to consider signing up your children up as well. By doing so, you may just be sparing them the pain of a broken hip when they get older, according to researchers from Skane University Hospital in Sweden.
In a six year study, researchers followed 446 boys and 362 girls starting at age 7 through 9 who were given 40 minutes of regular exercise every day, and a control group consisting of 807 boys and 780 girls who only exercised a total of 60 minutes per week. Over the six years of the study, researchers found that the group who exercised more often had a significantly higher mineral density in the bones of their spine than the control group.
During this same time, a concurrent study of former male athletes found that the bone mass density in those who were now an average of 69 years of age had decreased only slightly compared to a control group of males who had not been nearly as active in their childhood years.
Increased activity when we are younger helps us build higher bone density, so that later on as we age and our bone mass begins to drop off, we start with stronger bones, and it takes us longer to reach the stage where our bones are considered brittle and subject to fracture.
U.S. Children Not Meeting Federal Recommendations
Despite these and other findings, most children in the U.S. are not getting the federally recommended 60 minutes of physical activity daily. Schools are feeling so crunched for time with the latest educational mandates and testing that many are not offering physical education at all, and video games and television have many children turning into couch potatoes early in life.
A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Tennessee identifies a number of ways to help children meet the recommendations for daily exercise. Here are some of their suggestions:
- Require daily physical education classes in schools
- Provide physical activity breaks during the day
- Encourage children to ride a bike or walk to school when possible
- Provide physical activity programs after school
- Renovate parks and school playgrounds to encourage more activity
- Standardize curriculum for physical education to include more activity and decrease stationary periods
- Provide more play equipment during recess, and increase recess duration by 5 minutes
Parents Need to Get Involved
While the recommendations made by the study had more to do with how schools and local governments should find ways to get children to be more active, parents need to be aware of how much exercise their child is getting and get involved as well. Parents and children alike will benefit from the exercise of getting out and playing ball, tossing a Frisbee around or just taking a walk together. Consider signing up for an exercise class together, such as Zumba, or boot camp.
Childhood obesity is a growing problem in the U.S., and a large part of it is due to lack of physical activity. Take the time to teach your child good habits for life around being active and getting regular exercise, and you will not only be staving off obesity, diabetes and a host of other diseases, but you will also be helping him or her to build strong bones. That may help reduce the likelihood of your child suffering from bone fractures when he or she gets older!