When I glanced at my 7 and 10 year-old son and daughter’s Christmas lists back in December and saw they both included a Fitbit, my initial thought was those were completely unnecessary gifts. After all, my kids seem to have ample energy from the moment they rise to the moment I remind them it’s time to wind down at night.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends at least 60 minutes of active play per day for school-aged children. As a psychologist and parent, I am increasingly aware of the time limit placed on children during the school day on physical activity, with shortened recess (or non-existent for middle and high schoolers) and physical education often not incorporated into every school day. Of course cold, winter months and hot, summer days often also result in children being indoors more often than when the weather is nice. And of course, increased use of media can interfere with children achieving that 60 minutes. This got me thinking about whether my children really are physically active for the recommended time on a daily basis.
As I thought more about my kids’ lists, I started to consider whether this might be just the perfect gift – not just for them, but for the whole family. Not only is physical activity important for physical health, it also promotes good mental health, including stress relief. Teaching children healthy habits when they’re young really helps set them up for success as adults.
Despite my initial hesitation, I went ahead and bought activity trackers for both of my children, and it has been a great decision. I’m back to wearing my Fitbit and my husband wears his Garmin, and between the four of us, we have daily competitions about who was most active. Our dog is even getting in on the action as she agrees to walk around the neighborhood if one of us needs to increase our activity level that day. While having an activity tracker is certainly not a necessity, the emphasis on physical activity is, and this goal is always easier to accomplish if it is shared by the entire family.