You Need to Hear this Before You Let Your Kids Just “Lounge” Around the House All Summer

Physical exercise

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder

School’s out, but before you let the kids “relax,” a.k.a. lounge around and play video games, binge watch TV or text all day, you may want to consider the benefits of less sedentary hobbies. Keeping a healthy routine of physical activity may help protect children from certain diseases, according to a new study.

While it may not seem like a couple of weeks of inactivity could do much harm in young and active people, recent research shows that it could have quick adverse effects. Just two weeks of inactivity may lead to a reduction in muscle mass and an increased risk of developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and potentially premature death, according to a study published by the European Association for the Study of Obesity.

Researchers studied 28 people with an average age of 25 and a body mass index (BMI) of 25 who walked about 10,000 steps every day, before the study. When reducing their activity level by 80 percent to about 1,500 steps per day, or from 160 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity to 36 minutes per day, there were “small but significant” reductions in fitness that were reflected in the health of participants.

Along with a loss of muscle mass, there was an increase of total body fat that accumulated centrally, which is a major risk factor for developing chronic diseases, the study reported. Participants were unable to run for as long or as quickly as they could prior to the study, and cardiorespiratory fitness levels declined sharply.

And these results were apparent in participants who still found 36 minutes in their day to exercise!

However, study authors note that you aren’t doomed if you do get distracted from your healthy routines. You can still improve your health even after two weeks of lounging around—as long as you make a habit that gets you back on track. Being less sedentary and maintaining a high step count has “very clear health benefits,” authors suggested.

“So it’s fine if you’re fit and well and you go on holiday for two weeks and then you get right back to normal,” co-author of the study Dan Cuthbertson, Ph.D, told Health. “But the problem is that many people don’t revert back to these levels of activity, and then perhaps the effects will accumulate.”

How can we be proactive?

Encourage your family to partake in new activities and hobbies. If you are like me, you may not like structured workout sessions that just focus on "working out." I prefer hobbies like tennis, golf or hiking with friends that do not necessarily focus on working out, but instead focus on a fun competitive activity that has physical activity as a side effect. Check your community for activities, like swimming at a community or gym pool or joining a recreational soccer or beach volleyball team.

If you like activity in a gym setting, explore new classes in your area. Most gyms have free trials where you and your family can try dance, yoga, rock climbing or basic exercise classes to learn about proper form. Some smaller studios may have discounts for new members. Remember—the best physical activity is the one you enjoy and will continue to do.

Keep in mind that unstructured play, similar to recess, is good exercise for kids, says the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC). Even taking a morning or after-dinner walk or bike ride can be a good way to establish healthy physical and social habits sans screens.

Take advantage of the games that do encourage outdoor play. While the mobile game Pokémon Go should be played with care and supervision, a recent study from the Journal of the American Heart Association found that people who are otherwise sedentary get more exercise while playing the outdoor mobile game.

Read our past blog for more on the physical activity recommendations for each age group.

To learn more about how to stay active instead of sedentary, read our health information on physical activity, and learn how you can improve your cardiovascular health.

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, health care attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. To learn more about the pH Health Care Team, click here.


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