Currently, only 20.6% of children between the ages of 6-17 participate in the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity daily. The research clearly states that physical activity in children positively effects bone health, cardiovascular functioning, weight management and is associated with improved academic performance, cognition, and emotional health. The questions we must ask ourselves are why isn’t this simple, free, life-enhancing physical activity of the utmost importance to those who lead and/or are responsible for the well-being of children, and how can we lean into this issue to enact change.
One significant barrier to health behavior management in children, is the health behavior of the adults in charge. The data demonstrates that nearly 80% of adults are not meeting the baseline standards for cardiovascular exercise and muscular strengthening activities. We know that children whose parents are physically active are more likely to be the same; likewise if their parents are overweight or obese they have a 50% increased chance of following in their footsteps. Maybe we try and kick off movement and mindfulness as a group, as a team, as a family and see where that leads.
Movement that includes a measure of mindfulness, bringing attention to the current state of being without assessment, can create a powerful connection between the mind and the body. Adults who have high levels of mindfulness have an increased ability to choose health enhancing behaviors such as participating in physical activity and ingesting fruits and vegetables. Children who have been introduced to mindfulness techniques learn how to monitor their responses and feelings in the current moment, reporting less reactivity. One idea for mindful-movement is going on an age-appropriate hike or a walk and taking the time to notice all the beautiful and interesting components of your environment. You can bring a bag and collect little trinkets of interest such as special rocks, flowers, and pinecones, or you can add a service component wearing gloves and collecting bits of trash along the way. This group movement can be executed in the form of biking, swimming, dancing, playing, climbing etc. with the added facet of bringing awareness to the body’s magnificent ability to move and the feelings that arise during and after.
Simple language used and attention brought to the strength and tenacity of the little human, highlighting their functioning heart, lungs and muscular-skeletal system increases the awareness of and connection to this blessed creation that is the human body. Learning to pause and appreciate our body and our health proves to direct us towards better self-care, resilience, and ultimately more movement. Mindful movement can be a powerful and productive tool in the tool-belt of life for children and their caregivers.