Research has demonstrated the benefits of physical activity and the negative consequences of sedentary behavior for physical and mental well-being. At Summerland Camps we mainly work with internally focused campers- that is, young people that have withdrawn from socialization into a world of screen based activity. Not only is there an effect on mental well-being, but there is also an effect on physical health. We work with campers to create lifestyle change though cognitive behavioral behavior change techniques.
At Summerland Camps we are behaviorally based in our approach to physical activity. Unfortunately, there is no one measurement tool that captures physical activity and sedentary behaviors perfectly. We use pedometers to track physical movement, along with daily tracking journals to both plan and measure our daily activities. Each morning at any Summerland Camp we begin with a morning walk. The daily goal is 10,000 steps- or about 5 miles.
When choosing a measurement tool to assess physical activity and sedentary behavior, parents and campers alike must be aware of the strengths and limitations of each measurement. We use pedometers at camp because they are simple, and eliminate the need to connect to the internet. At home campers may choose to switch to a Fitbit or similar activity monitoring device that has much more functionality than a pedometer.
Either way, the importance here is to start measuring behavior and to establish daily goals. 10,000 steps per day is the generally accepted goal to maintain good physical health for a teenager. By using instruments to measure behavior, we can have daily feedback to let us know we are meeting – or not meeting- our planned goals. This data becomes “grist for the mill” in behavior change sessions, and also becomes valuable talking points in aftercare as well.
Finally, at the family workshops we provide parents behavioral contracts to enter into with their camper upon discharge from camp if they chose to do so. A daily and weekly step goal is an important part of contractual obligations for most campers- as it proves the camper is breaking out of their routine at home.
Macfarlane DJ, Lee CC, Ho EY, et al. Convergent validity of six methods to assess physical activity in daily life. J Appl Physiol. 2006;101(5):1328–34.
Reilly JJ, Penpraze V, Hislop J, et al. Objective measurement of physical activity and sedentary behaviour: review with new data. Arch Dis Child. 2008;93(7):614–9.