Boys need motivation to move it

MICHIGAN STATE (US) — A lack of available equipment and a strong desire to play video games are keeping adolescent boys on the couch and away from physical activity.

“Recent data show less than 12 percent of boys at this age are reaching federal recommendations for physical activity,” says Lorraine Robbins, assistant professor of nursing at Michigan State University.

“There is an urgent need to intervene as soon as boys reach middle school to help prevent long-term health problems.”

A new study of racially diverse sixth-grade boys from two public middle schools finds the most prominent barriers are lack of motivation and lack of equipment at schools with neighborhood options only offering small yards and parks in disrepair.

The results are reported in the Journal of School Nursing.

Boys surveyed also prefer playing computer or video games or watching TV, but acknowledge the importance of maintaining an average body weight for good physical health, specifically in regard to improving personal appearance.

The research focuses on boys because obesity is more prevalent in adolescent boys than girls.

“Although boys are more active, only a small percentage engages in 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day,” Robbins says.

“A lot of boys in both single- and dual-working parent homes care for themselves after school while their parents are at work. Many have limited opportunities for physical activity that are safe, accessible and affordable; this type of situation can lead to unhealthy eating habits.”

School-based programs, held after school from 3 to 5 p.m. would go far to address the home alone syndrome. Most study participants would be willing to attend, but only if girls or older boys weren’t involved in the program.

“Clearly, to reach boys at this age, we need to offer physical activities that are fun and appealing, providing a viable alternative to the sedentary activities they enjoy now,” Robbins says. “In addition, at this age group, it is critical to have someone serving as a source of help or motivation.”

School nurses are in a key position to assume a leadership role in increasing physical activity.

“School nurses can work with principals, classroom teachers, physical education teachers and the school board to raise awareness about the need for and details of effective programs,” Robbins says. “Innovative
strategies are needed to enhance nurses’ visibility as resources in helping students achieve physical activity recommendations.”

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