Growing up as a kid, my brother, sister and I would spend copious amounts of time running around our backyard and playing on our swing set. My personal favorite was the trapeze bar, where I would hang from the bar by my legs and watch my siblings run around me, of course, upside down. I cherish these moments we had together, even though fights may have erupted over whose turn it was to swing.
I grew up in a suburban area where my family was lucky enough to have a backyard to house a see-saw, a swing set, a rope ladder, and a sandbox. My father built the wooden set, and we had easy access to play. Unfortunately, this is not the case for all families.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, only one out of five children in the United States live within a half-mile of a park or playground. KaBOOM!, a national non-profit dedicated to saving play for America’s children, refer to areas without play spaces as a “play desert.” These play deserts are common in low-income areas, and according to KaBOOM!, rates of childhood obesity are also linked to play deserts.
Building play spaces for children not only gives them time to interact with other children and have fun, but it allows for exercise. According to the Centers for Disease Control, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. Children who are overweight face long-term health effects, which include heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and cancer, and immediate health effects such as high blood pressure, prediabetes, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea and poor self-esteem.
Physical activity is beneficial to the health of children. The Centers for Disease Control states that regular physical activity can help build and maintain healthy bones and muscles, reduce the risk of developing obesity and chronic diseases, promotes psychological well-being, and may help improve students’ academic performance.
To think that play can reduce the incidences of childhood obesity and potentially save obese children from these health issues seems too good to be true. On KaBOOM!’s website, they state that kids who play are healthier. The decline of play time in America is increasing our childhood obesity rates. With more play, comes a healthier America.
If we teach the children of America that physical activity when playing, such as running, jumping and throwing can be fun, then we can change a mindset about being healthy and active. Whether you help build a play space, donate to a non-profit such as KaBOOM!, or promote play outside with children, you can do your part in helping childhood obesity and promoting a healthier lifestyle.