Q: Are my kids getting enough physical activity?
A: Sadly, for most kids, the answer is “probably not.”
We live in a world today of iPad, iPhone and addictive technology that makes physical activity take a back seat for many. Rarely do kids go outside and ride bikes or play a friendly neighborhood game of basketball, football or soccer. Instead, they’re too often found at home, on the couch, playing video games or engulfed in social media on a computer, tablet or smartphone.
Compounding this problem, many schools have dramatically reduced physical education, and/or altered it to be far less vigorous, removing another avenue for kids to participate in healthy active play.
So how can we break this cycle and get kids moving again? Sports are a great solution. Not only do they get kids moving and active, they also create a positive learning environment at the same time. Sports allow for children to develop teamwork skills, athleticism and physical fitness. They also help kids build friendships, confidence and a lifelong love of active play and healthful living. Sports also help reduce problem behaviors and sleeplessness, while introducing young people to positive role models.
Among youth sports, hockey is an excellent choice for high-activity play. A North Carolina State University study of numerous sports’ activity levels showed that hockey lifted participants into a moderate-to-vigorous stage of activity at a higher rate than any other sport. The following graph from that study indicates moderate-to-vigorous activity experienced by a player throughout one practice session.
But just skating through a single practice isn’t sufficient. Kids need at least 60 minutes of vigorous physical activity daily. One of the beneficial byproducts of youth sports is that they can be a great vehicle for connecting children with other kids who have similar interests, and this increases the chances of those children gathering and participating in other activities such as active playdates, dryland training, group games and other physical activities away from their sport. Combined with regular practices and games, this type of activity can help children exceed the daily 60-minute benchmark and set the foundation for good health.
Whatever the activity, “We need to shift our view and empower children to love physical activity because they are young and able, not because they have to or they’re forced to or they’re fighting obesity," said Minneapolis-based Abby Kreitlow, a certified health education specialist (CHES) and certified personal trainer. "Let’s move together and encourage how fun physical activity can be."
The author, Emily West, joined USA Hockey in 2017 as its American Development Model manager for female hockey.
Prior to joining USA Hockey, West worked at a multi-sport training facility and also coached hockey at various levels from youth and girls through high school. In 2017, she completed hockey director training at the North American Rink Conference and Expo in Columbus, Ohio.
West played collegiately at the University of Minnesota, where she was a two-time captain of the Golden Gophers women’s hockey team and a Patty Kazmaier Award nominee in 2010. She helped the Gophers win two conference titles and an NCAA Division I national championship in 2012, finishing her playing career with 158 points.
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