This Christmas the Public Health Agency (PHA) is highlighting the value of another important gift –health. In particular, the Agency is highlighting the importance of physical activity. If children are to grow into healthy adults it is recommended that they take part in 60 minutes of exercise a day. Parents can help children reach this target by choosing fun gifts for Christmas that encourage physical activity and play.
The Toy Retailers’ Association’s 2011 Toys for Christmas List has recently been released, and whilst many of the top 12 promote learning, very few promote physical activity which is essential to help kids maintain a healthy weight. This is especially important as more than a third of children in Northern Ireland are overweight or obese.
Increasing numbers of children are engaging in physical activity and will meet the recommended daily exercise for good health; however, more than three quarters of 9–11 year olds (76%) will not meet the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day. So remember to place presents under the tree this year that will encourage activity. Why not go back to basics with toys such as skipping ropes, footballs, hurley or hockey sticks, swimming costume or board games such as Twister or charades. More extravagant gifts could be bikes, scooters or trampolines to encourage your children to get active outside while still having fun. Parents can even join in too! Make time to be active and have fun as a family over the Christmas holiday period– go for a walk or get out into the garden and put those active gifts to use.
If technology is firmly at the top of your youngster’s Christmas list you could opt for games consoles with physical activity accessories, such as dance, sports and fitness games, so children can still play their video games while still getting their recommended 60minutes of physical activity a day.
Colette Brolly, Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Manager and Physical Activity Lead, PHA, said: “We would like parents to think about this issue and choose more active Christmas presents for their children this holiday season. It is really important to encourage children to be physically active as this can help them maintain a normal weight, increase academic performance, increase their self-esteem, and generally make them feel better.
“Encouraging more physically active toys or games will help children get the 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity needed daily. However, this does not have to be done all at once, but can be broken up throughout the day into bursts of at least 10 minutes, which add up to the all important 60.
“So when buying gifts this holiday season, pick out toys that will encourage physical activity rather than just computer games or DVDs. These small steps are just a few ways to help children be active and get the 60minutes of physical activity they need a day.”
Health Minister Edwin Poots added: “Taking part in physical activity can bring a range of health improvements which benefits both our physical health as well as our mental wellbeing.
“I would encourage everyone this Christmas and throughout the year to try to lead a healthier lifestyle. This is particularly important for our children and young people as regular physical activity, as well as eating a healthy balance diet, can ensure they will remain healthier in later life.”
For further information on how to incorporate physical activity into your family lifestyle, visit: www.getalifegetactive.com/.
Contact the PHA Press Office on 028 9031 1611.
Notes to the editor
- Children of pre-school age who are capable of walking unaided should be physically active daily for at least 180 minutes (3 hours), spread throughout the day.
- All children and young people should engage in moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity for at least 60 minutes and up to several hours every day.
- Adults should aim to be active daily. Over a week, activity should add up to at least 150 minutes (2½ hours) of moderate intensity activity in bouts of 10 minutes or more – one way to approach this is to do 30 minutes on at least 5 days a week.