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    Physical Activity: Steps, Fitbits and Kids


    By every government and published statistic, I have not seen any data to support that we are adequately fit, and fitness is worse for those with disabilities. With the advent of wearable technology, Americans are going crazy with monitoring their steps and their activity...I have to say, I got one myself :)


    I am a pretty fit person who exercises regularly and I was surprised to see how many steps I took in a given day as a busy school based physical therapist...anywhere from 2800-8000...depending on how many schools I went to and whether I hit a high school or middle school. Days in preschool I have the least number of steps, even when I am doing motor groups all day. So I wondered, how many steps do our students take in a given day? How many steps do kids take in general?


    I put a Fitbit on some kids and here is what I got:

    1. My Middle School daughter in Honors classes, on a PE day, 2900 steps.

    2. My High Schooler son with some Honors classes, no PE or sports that day, 4800 steps.

    3. Middle School student with Autism, on a PE day 2800 steps...I actually put pedometers on 6 kids...one ended up in the toilet, 4 refused to wear them, a few got lost in the process. So only one data byte. It is still telling. A lot of our kids with disabilities do not get unstructured free play after school or participate in sports...it seems like you cant get all the activity you need for health in the school day. 


    What does research say?

    3 hours of physical activity in preschoolers =3,000 steps 


    Boys average 12-16000 steps per day, girls 10-13000, teens 8-9000 steps.


    What should we be doing as physical therapists? Advocating for physical activity in as many ways as possible:

    1.  The old adage...take the bus instead of walking...encourage teachers to incorporate additional walking routines into kids's school day. Encourage parents to walk with their kids after school and take them to the playground.

    2. At every IEP meeting encourage physical activity. Distribute physical activity guidelines to every parent. For kids here, for adults here.

    3. Encourage walking/running fitness routines as you collaborate with PE teachers.


    I haven't seen Fitbit data on youth with disabilities, if you come across a study let me know. Or if you are in PhD mode, you have your project. GO :)




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