Is your child walking 12,000 steps per day?
Childhood obesity is a hot topic. Most concerning to me as a mother is the statistic put out by the Center of Disease Control that 1 in 3 Americans will have type 2 diabetes by the year 2050. As a mother of four that puts at least one of my children in the category of taking daily pills and/or shots in order to remain alive. Being diabetic is not a death sentence by any means. I have friends and family members who are living full, happy lives without their own insulin. Even so, it is certainly something I would like to help my children and grandchildren avoid if at all possible.
In light of this downward spiral of our nation’s health, the big question I wanted to know was how much exercise do my children need? And what does exercise even look like for a child? Certainly, they should not be lifting weights in a gym atmosphere. Most workout facilities have a minimum age requirement somewhere around age 12. Of course, there are sports practices but these are often minimal for younger children. In my quest to find the answer I came across this: For 6–12 year olds, girls needed 12,000 steps/day and boys needed 15,000 steps/day to stay in a healthy Body Mass Index – BMI. The study was published in the June, 2004 “Preventative Medicine” by Catrine Tudor-Locke Ph.D. and associates. This is exactly what I was looking for as my hope for my children is a healthy BMI (amongst many other things, of course).
Enter the pedometer. I recently purchased one to monitor my activity more. Personally, I am shooting for a threshold of 10,000 steps a day. Even with being outside much of the day I quickly realized I wasn’t even coming close to that goal. Wearing the pedometer has made me much more aware of my daily activity level. I have bid farewell to 25 pounds in just the three and a half months I have been using it.
After many weeks of wearing the pedometer, our 1000 Hours Team began to throw around the idea around of having one of the kids wear it on a hike. The kids run all over the place when we are outside. They run ahead to cool looking trees and run back. They chase each other. They are moving almost constantly. My original thought was that this post was going to have a title such as “Kids get 18,000 steps during a daily hike”. I thought I was going to be able to tout our blog entitled 1,000 Hours Outside as such a great idea for exercise.
After five hours outside on a nearby State Park trail we were all fairly shocked to see that one of the four year old boys in our group who wore the pedometer that day had gone (only) 10,000 steps. While this is certainly a large number, it is still 5,000 steps shy of the minimum to maintain a healthy BMI. It got us wondering about how much activity kids in general are getting on a daily basis – especially with just a few recesses a day. We don’t think it is even a possibility if a child remains inside all day.
With Michigan ranked as the 5th fattest state in the country we thought we ought to spread the word about this step requirement for children. This is an attainable goal we can explain to them . We can tell our young people what their bodies need for adequate exercise and then make the necessary choices as a family to get them outside. 1000 Hours Outside is using gripping photography, sound research, and life experience to help inform other Michigan parents about the multi-faceted benefits of free play in the open air. One major benefit is that it can help children avoid obesity.
Our team lives in Southeast Michigan and we are blown away by the number of parks, playgrounds and trails there are within a 30 minute radius of us. There are State Parks, State Recreation Areas, Metroparks, city parks, and trails between cities. The Map of Play is a good resource to use when trying to find great places to take your children to. Just enter your zip code and see what’s around! You can even add your special places to the map for other families to find.
Although the concept of getting outside more seems like a relatively simple one we’ve compiled a few resources to help you get started. They are listed below.
Here are some answers to some frequently asked questions we’ve been asked.
Here is an initial solution to dealing with falling Michigan temperatures.
Here are some suggestions for those just starting to add outdoor time into their daily schedules.
Here is a reference list to get you started when trying to find some great places to hike around you! Our favorite southeastern Michigan spot is highlighted at the bottom.
You can buy a pedometer for fairly cheap. It might be worth it so that you can begin to gauge how much exercise you and your children are getting. Take steps to better health by tracking steps! Then head outside and watch your children run!
Jen, Lisa and Ginny are moms (both part-time working and stay at home) who have a passion for getting kids outdoors. Stemming from their backgrounds in health and fitness and education, they are driven by trying to provide a carefree childhood coupled with all the health and developmental benefits that outside time provides. They have nine kids amongst them who all love running, building, picnicking, playing and napping in the open air. Their blog, 1000 Hours Outside is meant to encourage moms and caregivers every where to take their kids outside more and discover all of the amazing benefits. 1000 Hours Outside hosts monthly gift card and product giveaways to give families that extra incentive to make this investment into free play in the open air.