Children and adolescents

  Population considerations:

  • Time. Children and adolescents often have other obligations (e.g., school, homework, afterschool activities) that can get in the way of being physically active (Tappe, 1989).
  • Body image. Young women or girls and overweight children or adolescents may not be physically active because they are self-conscious about their appearance (Rees, 2006).
  • Sedentary activities. Children and adolescents often prefer to watch television, play video games or play on the computer rather than participate in activities that are more physically challenging (Sherwood, 2004).
  • Safety. Children and adolescents may not be allowed to walk or bike to school or to play outside in the neighborhood because their parents or guardians think it is unsafe (e.g., traffic or crime) (Rees, 2006; Wang, 2006).
  • Access to resources. Children and adolescents may not have a place to go in their neighborhood to be physically active (e.g., a park or playground, a school or a community center) (Rees, 2006).
  • Influence of peers. Peer influences have become increasingly important to children and adolescents.  Peers influence the amount and type of physical activity in which they participate (Pender, 1998). Some young people may not be physically active because they are self-conscious about their appearance (Rees, 2006).

  Strategies to address these considerations:

  • Enhance school-based physical activity. Since children and adolescents are at school for most of their waking hours, the school setting is an ideal place to target healthy physical activity behaviors (Rees, 2006). Physical education, provided at school, is an ideal way to encourage activity and develop fitness in order to prepare children for an active lifestyle. Support school physical education programs by encouraging the local board of education to review and possibly increase physical education instruction time for all students.
  • Enhance after-school activities. Work with school administrators and community organizations to provide access to school facilities outside of school hours or create after-school community-based activities (Rees, 2006). 
  • Encourage support. Parental support, through active involvement, is consistently and positively related to greater amounts of physical activity among children and adolescents (Rees, 2006). Verbal support (e.g., encouragement) and instrumental support (e.g., transportation to physical activity opportunities) may also increase children’s activity levels.
  • Develop transportation options. Public transportation systems or carpool arrangements can be put in place to encourage children and adolescents to take part in youth-focused physical activities at community centers (Rees, 2006).  To increase physical activity when going from home to school, think about creating safe walking and biking paths (Saksvig, 2007). 
  • Provide positive opportunities. It is important to provide opportunities for all young people to be comfortable being physically active (Rees, 2006). This may be done by setting ground rules (e.g., ensure fair play, inclusion of all children), or by providing a range of classes and activities in which individuals of varying fitness and skill levels can take part. It is important to provide the opportunity for both team and individual sports activities. 
  • Address community concerns. It may be useful to meet with community leaders and parents to identify strategies for addressing concerns about safety and ways to enhance community facilities and resources.

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