Get Moving with a Free Child Physical Activity Program You Can Do from Home!

Many Latino children have pressing mental health needs but are not getting adequate mental health care, studies have shown. 

COVID-19 didn’t help, either. 

The pandemic heightened social isolation, dependence on smartphones and social media, and mental health issues among young people.  

Meanwhile, opportunities declined for physical activity – a proven method for treating disorders such as depression and anxiety. 

Loss of physical activity can harm physical, emotional, social, and mental health. 

This is why a PhD student at Michigan State University is offering a free online program geared to increasing physical activity to improve mental health in Latino children between the ages of 7 and 11. 

About the Physical Activity Program 

The program is part of a research effort exploring the benefits of physical activity in children with “poor executive functioning and attention concerns.” 

In this study, a physical activity regiment will act as the main form of treatment for cognitive and behavioral conditions. 

Those selected to participate in the program will be assigned to a twice-a-day regiment to be completed 10-15 minutes a day for 12 weeks via an online self-led computer application.  

A second study group will undergo the regiment beginning at the 12-week mark. 

Parents or guardians will be responsible for collecting measures and rating forms assessing their child before the program begins, mid-program, and immediately following the end of the program.  

Researchers hope to see attention and focus improve along with changes to academic and behavioral performance in school in Latino children as a result of the study. 

“Direct benefits include the opportunity to improve motor skills, knowledge, health, and emotional skills. As youth improve motor skills, specifically coordination and balance, their cognitive and behavioral skills may improve,” according to study details. 

Participation in the program, valued at $500, is FREE, can be done from anywhere in the US. Families can earn up to $50 just for participating!   

To determine you and your child’s eligibility, take the 5 to 10-minute screening assessment where you will be asked a few brief questions about yourself and your child and to sign a consent form!  

For more information about the program contact Nancy Hernandez, M.A., at [email protected] or (631) 861-4290. 

The Need for Physical Wellness in Latino Children 

While the program aims to address cognitive and behavioral health in Latino children, physical activity is a key component to living a healthy lifestyle.  

However, several barriers can keep ways to maintain physical activity out of reach.  

While many schools across the country offer some form of physical education, not all programs are created equal 

Some of the schools with inadequate programs are often located in rural areas with large minority populations such as Latinos. 

What’s more, these physical education programs are where physical activity starts and stops.  

There’s often a lapse of physical activity outside school, especially during the summer when school is out. 

Outdoor activities can be limited during this time due to extreme heat conditions caused by climate change while some neighborhoods lack safe places to play and be active.  

Sometimes there isn’t an area to play within walking distance of the home.

 One in three Latinos have access to a park within walking distance, and only 19% of Latino children have recreational green spaces in proximity to where they live, compared to 62% of white children, according to a Salud America! fact sheet. 

In addition to low physical activity during the summer, children don’t always have access to balanced meals, which are provided by school meal programs 

Between poor nutrition and food insecurity and lack of exercise, children become more prone to weight gain and obesity.  

That’s true for many Latino children, who possess a higher risk for developing early childhood obesity. 

In the US, 22.7% of Latino children between the ages of 10 and 17 were obese in 2021-2022, according to the National Survey of Children’s Health, cited in the 2023 State of Childhood Obesity report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). 

When compared with Asian American children at 9.6%, white children at 13.1%, Black children at 22%, and American Indian/Alaska Native children at 21.4%, Latino children have some of the highest obesity rates in the US.  

Childhood obesity, which is a risk factor for many diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and heart conditions, has also been linked to pollution. 

Addressing Childhood Obesity 

Increasing physical activity is one way to lower the risk of childhood obesity, but it’s only one factor in a larger problem. 

Collecting more accurate health data, especially when it comes to the measurement of Body Mass Index (BMI), can help gauge obesity rates so we can address the problem. 

There are limitations to the BMI system, according to one report as highlighted by Salud America! 

BMI measures body size and is not considered a measure of health. It also encompassed body weight; not necessarily body fat, which can be better judge of health.  

“The body mass index (BMI) measurement is simply that—a measure of body size—but it is not a comprehensive measurement of health,” according to the report. 

Food insecurity can also play a role in obesity. 

Low-income and ethnic minorities, such as Latinos, may have a harder time getting their hands on healthy foods. 

Expenses and distance to grocery stores factor into nutrition insecurity.  

To address these inequities, the report suggests supporting ethnically diverse leaders, giving communities the tools to empower themselves to make a difference, and tackling the effects of climate change through policies that create affordable foods and sustainable food systems.  

“When we invest in redistributing the power and decision-making capacity in our food systems, we invest in health equity,” said Diana Rivera, program manager for Vital Village Networks, said via the report. 

While the government offers nutrition assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), it doesn’t guarantee access to healthy foods. 

The report states that broadening the eligibility of these programs to include more low-income individuals and families, expanding online purchasing options, and making healthy school meals permanent could improve access to healthy food.  

Thanks to a final ruling by the USDA to improve nutrition in food packages in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), we are one step closer in closing some of these nutrition access gaps.  

The change includes whole grain requirements in breakfast cereals and other food items, creating more flexibility in infant formula, and providing more dairy products along with dairy substitutions. 

Tackling the Disparities that Contribute to Obesity 

While tackling food insecurity and access to green spaces are important in addressing obesity, it doesn’t solve the underlying cause behind these inequities. 

Obesity is much than just a health outcome. It’s a “key symptom of community conditions and systemic inequities,” according to an RWJF report. 

“Efforts for preventing childhood obesity must center on equity and address these systemic challenges—the social, economic, and physical factors that harm our health, including the long-standing structural racism that exists across all the systems that circumscribe our lives,” according to the report. 

With this knowledge, we can search for ways to create more opportunities to promote health equity in our communities. 

Download a Salud America! Health Equity Report Card to explore issues such as food insecurity, education, and housing where you live. 

Use this tool to compare your community’s health to the rest of the state and country to focus on areas for improvement.  

The data and maps contained in the Health Equity Report Card can be shared on social media, with local policymakers, or leaders in your community to create change! 


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