November 17, 2022
“Kids, get off the couch and get some fresh air!” experts at the Children’s Health Foundation have been urging for years. Unfortunately, with only moderate success: About 70 percent of children and young people in Germany still do not get enough exercise, the foundation complains in its first “Report on Children’s Health”. Instead, they spend more screen time, often can’t do somersaults, and risk becoming couch potatoes.
“Exercise is of fundamental importance for a child’s health and well-being,” emphasizes the Munich pediatrician Professor Dr. Berthold Koletzko, Chairman of the Children’s Health Foundation. “Even in children and adolescents, and of course also in adult women and men, the lack of physical activity is associated with significant health risks. Indolence promotes, for example, overweight and obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and disorders of fat and blood sugar metabolism.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that all adolescent girls and boys get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day, such as running, climbing, cycling or swimming, and for good reason.
Only every fourth child moves enough
According to current data, only 25 percent of children and young people in Germany achieve this desirable minimum level of exercise, according to the “Child Health Report” foundation. “This means: Three out of four children and adolescents suffer from a potentially health-threatening lack of exercise!”, emphasizes Professor Dr. Berthold Koletzko.
According to national studies, children and adolescents between the ages of 4 and 17 are physically active for only about six hours a week, according to the Children’s Health Foundation. There are especially many “sedentary” teenagers: young people aged 14 to 17 move the least. The number of girls who are not very active is twice as high as boys who are lazy.
Using media leads to inertia
The duration and frequency of media use by children and young people in Germany has been increasing for years, but the Covid 19 pandemic has also led to an increase in problematic media behaviour, according to the Children’s Health Foundation. Many children spend their free time on the sofa. Television, computer games, smartphones and game consoles – the most popular pastimes of children and young people are displacing sports and activities outside the home.
Disadvantaged children least active
In addition to age and gender, physical activity also affects the social status of children and young people, says the new “Child Health Report”. Children and young people from families with a lower socio-economic status exercise less than children and young people from better-off families, have a significantly reduced quality of life and suffer more from depressive symptoms and psychological problems.
Particularly disadvantaged children include children whose parents have low education or a migrant background, or who are psychologically stressed, and children in families who live in cramped spaces. Girls from families with low social status are generally the least physically active.
The “TigerKids” program puts children on their feet
The Foundation for Children’s Health demands that all children and young people get more opportunities and space for sports and exercise activities in everyday life and in their free time. Together with the Children’s Clinic of the University of Munich and various other partners, she developed the prevention project “TigerKids” for nutrition and exercise intervention for day care centers.
“Our ‘TigerKids’ program promotes exercise and healthy nutrition in day care centers to prevent physical inactivity and obesity,” explains Professor Berthold Koletzko: “It is scientifically based and is now used by more than 2,500 kindergartens and day care centers.” “.
Recommendations for parents
The program also includes recommendations for parents on how they can easily incorporate more movement into their child’s daily life:
1. Reduction of media consumption (max. 0.5 – 1 hour of media per day, determine media-free days).
2. Exercise in everyday life: Cover distances by walking or cycling, use stairs instead of escalators, track the number of steps with a pedometer and compare them within the family.
3. Dress the child in comfortable clothing to encourage movement.
4. Take advantage of the offers of the sports club, spend the weekend actively (e.g. hiking, visiting the zoo, playground, swimming pool).
5. Be a good role model: Communicate with your child the joy of movement, play and movement.
The TigerKids project of the Children’s Health Foundation now serves as a model for the development of preventive measures in many other European countries and has already won numerous awards.