For the Sake of Movement

The broad topic here is mental and emotional health, because as inevitably as night follows day, mental and emotional problems will manifest through the body, and destructive fat is one of their favorite channels. Childhood Obesity News mentioned a recent meta-study whose message is worth repeating:

[S]ignificant associations were found between greater amounts of sedentary behavior and both increased psychological ill-being (i.e. depression) and lower psychological well-being (i.e. satisfaction with life and happiness) in children and adolescents.

In a manner of speaking, we are all allergic to sitting around. But not everyone has suitable recreational opportunities, especially in a plague situation. No one wants more of that, but the virus seems to have other ideas and intentions for us. Apparently, its newest iteration is as transmissible as measles, which is known for being ridiculously contagious. The upcoming winter could be like nothing we have ever seen before.

Even without a pandemic, a parent cannot always have the luxury of time to indulge an older child and meet the needs of a younger child. Some people live with a whole family in three rooms, or even one room, so many amusement ploys are unworkable. But everybody can’t just sit around and stare at an electronic device all the time. Sedentary, depressed, and joyless kids are likely to become obese kids.

A little help is better than none

Still, as many authorities have pointed out, even a small amount of activity can change the inner environment and promote overall health. If seclusion becomes preferable or even enforced, it is good to be ready with some original and creative entertainment ideas. Of course, places are different, and children’s safety is always important. In a neighborhood where outside play is safe, choose it because of:

1) fresh air
2) easier cleanup
3) chance of improved caregiver sanity
4) farther from the kitchen

Some activities suggested for outdoors could work fine in a garage or basement where a bit of mess or spillage (or noise) can be tolerated. Practice carrying a cup, a bowl, or a pitcher of water from place to place without spilling. Practice pouring neatly. If you happen to save up bubble wrap, the little bubbles are fun to pop with fingers, and the big ones are fun to stomp. Empty plastic bottles can be used to set up a bowling game. Or they can be arrayed across a floor at intervals and knocked down one by one. With materials at hand, kids can improvise their own version of the “Twister” game.

A child who is fairly new at walking can practice stepping up and stepping down, forward and backward, to develop muscle memory before encountering an actual curb. As this page illustrates, it is not that hard to construct a rudimentary balance beam. For smaller children, it is even helpful to practice on a wide board set very low.

Winter Bonus Idea: Fill three or four spray bottles with water tinted in different colors with food coloring, and let kids spray-paint colorful designs on snow.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Role of Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior in the Mental Health of Preschoolers, Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review and Meta Analysis,”, 04/16/19
Images by Jennifer T., VSPYCC, mel0808johnson, VSPYCC/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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