Boys being active is crucial to their mental well being, study finds
Being a mother of one of each, I will be the first to tell you that raising boys and girls is both incredibly similar, yet also crazy different.
There are so many tiny nuances in the way they are and the needs they have and the way the just see and react to the world around them.
But for now, while they are both quite young, the absolute biggest difference is without a doubt just how much more energy (like, we are talking bouncing off the walls stuff) my little boy has now than his sister did at the same age.
As in; we sometimes go to the park really late in the afternoon just for him to run around for 30 minutes at top speed – because he genuinely needs to just burn off all this energy.
The thing is, all this running and burning of energy – it seems, if experts are to be believed, that it is the only way forward when it comes to boys. Especially if you want them to grow up and be successful at life.
And the worst part (or best, depending on what way you look at it) is that it is actually makes a whole lot of sense for boys to be constantly on the move and high and low and everywhere. In fact; we should probably be doing the very same thing.
Sitting still is, quite literally, killing us – and yet we are all doing it, all day, every day.
So armed with that knowledge, why, then, do we force our kids to do each day at school? Sit still, for six or eight hours – kids, who naturally, when not forced to sit, are in a constant state of motion – as they should be?
It turns out, the sedentary education system is especially bad for our boys.
Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland looked into whether boys actually achieve less in school when they're restricted from running around and being physically active.
In a study of 153 kids, aged 6 to 8, the researchers tracked how much physical activity and sedentary time they had during the day. And sure enough, according to a report by Belinda Luscombe in Time, the less "moderate to vigorous physical activity" the boys had each day, the harder it was for them to develop good reading skills:
"The more time kids ... spent sitting and the less time they spent being physically active, the fewer gains they made in reading in the two following years. [It] also had a negative impact on their ability to do math."
Interestingly; the results did not apply to girls.
The researchers offered up a few possible explanations for this: Maybe there simply are physiological differences--or maybe the girls were just as eager to move around as the boys, but they were better able to set aside that disappointment and concentrate.
And for that very reason, they said, girls are rewarded more than boys in the classroom.
"Girl behaviour is the gold standard in schools," says psychologist Michael Thompson. "Boys are treated like defective girls."
Not just an academic problem
While the lack of activity most definitively has a negative impact on boys' academic achievements, experts warn the problem could be bigger than this, and that limited physical activity leads to real physical and mental harm in kids.
"Restricting kids' movement like this leads them to increased anger and frustration, less ability to regulate emotions, and higher aggressiveness during the limited times they are allowed to play," says Angela Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist and author of “Balanced and Barefoot.” "Elementary children need at least three hours of active free play a day to maintain good health and wellness. Currently, they are only getting a fraction."
What do YOU think? Do you agree? How active are your boys in a day? Are they getting enough free time to run around? Can you see it making a difference?