When Eat Right Montana created our FIT KIDS = HAPPY KIDS poster and handout for Montana families, we put active play at the top of the list:
Be active by playing together inside and outside.
Although I am a Registered Dietitian dedicated to sharing the benefits of good nutrition, I believe that any effort to improve family health should start with active play. First, the benefits of physical activity extend to every part of our bodies and lives - from brain cells to our muscles, from fat cells to our emotions, from bones cells to our ability to learn new information.
Secondly, getting plenty of activity helps the natural signals of hunger and satiety to work well. It's really hard to know when you are truly hungry - or satisfied - when you are basically sedentary (often near large caches of very enticing foods).
Notice that I have not used the "E" word anywhere in this discussion. In fact, exercise is not something that most people (especially young people) want to do. While a few adults may love being at the gym, most children and teens prefer to play ... sliding ... running ... sports ... dribbling ... biking ... whirling ... dancing ... tumbling ... hopping ... skipping ... jumping. Truth be told, many adults prefer the "play" approach to activity as well.
Up next - can video games replace the need for outdoor play?