The current generation of children has been called the unhealthiest and least active in history, leading to a monumental increase in childhood obesity and related health conditions. Instead of engaging in physical activities, today’s children are sedentary and increasingly isolated, plugging into technology – TV, video games, iPads and iPods – rather than playing with friends and experiencing nature. Summer camp provides children with the opportunity to unplug from technology and rediscover the joys of physical activity and the great outdoors.
According to the Search Institute, an organization dedicated to providing knowledge and resources to help children succeed, one of a child’s most basic developmental needs is physical activity. What better place to meet that need than an adventure summer camp? Awesome activities aside, one study found that typically sedentary children averaged nearly 20,000 steps per day while attending a residential adventure camp!
At summer camp, television takes a backseat to action: dancing, watersports, rock climbing, paintball… Campers can stick to the old camping favorites, or challenge themselves with something new in a nurturing and non-threatening environment. They will develop new skills and enhance old ones while learning to enjoy physical activity, one of the first steps toward establishing a healthy lifestyle.
More and more summer camps are offering healthier food choices, serving more fruits and vegetables, reducing the quantities of fatty foods and sugary snacks, and offering vegetarian dishes and salad bars. And with an increased awareness of food allergies, many camps have become “peanut-free zones” and provide both gluten-free and lactose-free options.
In addition to a greater understanding of nutrition and fitness, campers are taught and encouraged to follow healthy hygiene practices. Germs abound where children congregate and summer camp is no exception, so a great deal of emphasis is placed on hygiene and precautionary measures. Many parents are surprised when their kids come home from camp with a new awareness of positive habits – thorough hand washing, safe sneezing, and identification of “touch zones” where germs are likely to reside. Campers are learning preventive behaviors, reducing the spread of germs both at camp and at home.
So, while much is made of the cultural, social, and psychological benefits of summer camp, don’t forget the tremendous physical benefits campers receive:
Through emphasis on fitness, nutrition, and hygiene, adventure summer camps are teaching and encouraging healthier lifestyle choices. The habits and life skills learned at camp are often continued at home, leading to healthier children, healthier homes, and healthier communities.