Childhood obesity has been a steadily growing problem in the United States, nearly tripling in prevalence over the last 30 years. With the rise of more and more complex video gaming systems and computers, children who are not athletically inclined have less motivation than ever to venture outside for play and exercise.
It is recommended that children in elementary school exercise anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour each day. Playgrounds provide the perfect opportunity for children to get the exercise they need to keep them trim and healthy and have fun in the process.
While you can point to the typical diet of an American child as the main culprit behind the increase in overweight children, it is undeniable that kids are just not moving around enough.
On top of the video games, computers, homework, etc., many of them are eating and drinking pure sugar while doing so. So not only are they taking in more calories, they are burning less – the recipe for weight gain.
Studies have shown that school and public playgrounds can be important elements to combat childhood obesity. Unfortunately, many of these playgrounds remain locked on weekends, preventing children from gaining access.
A recent study by the RAND Corporation found that an average of 66 percent of schools were unlocked on weekends, however, only 57% of schools were both unlocked and had accessible facilities for weekend physical activities (playgrounds, athletic fields, basketball courts, etc.)
The study found that girls who lived near locked schools had a tendency to be more overweight than girls who lived near unlocked schools.
Exercise should never feel like a chore to children. If it feels like something they have to do, they will resist it. But playgrounds provide a fun and creative way for children to get active. They encourage children to climb, slide and swing. While enjoying their play time, they are able to get valuable health benefits.
Obesity is much more than a cosmetic concern. Studies have shown that approximately 85 percent of children who are classified as obese continue to be obese for the remainder of their lives. This can lead to a laundry list of health problems, not to mention the mental distress that can come from being teased by other children.
Playgrounds may not be the magic answer to the problem of childhood obesity, but they are a good place to start getting kids more active.
School Playgrounds Can Help Fight Childhood Obesity. Medical News Today. April 26, 2007.
Playgrounds Play Major Role In Fighting Childhood Obesity: Michelle Obama Urges Students to Get Moving. March 4, 2010.
Brittany Hidahl. Childhood Obesity and How Commercial Playgrounds Can Help.
Cohen, Ashwood, Overton. RAND Corporation – Weekend schoolyard accessibility, physical activity, and obesity: The Trial of Activity in Adolescent Girls. December 2006.