We’ve all heard the alarming statistics regarding the Obesity Epidemic in the United States. What we don’t always hear are the statistics that relate to our children. Since the 1960’s the number of overweight children in the US has increased more than 4 times!! Almost 20% of our youth are now considered overweight! Over 70% of overweight children and adolescents will become overweight adults! Type 2 Diabetes used to be rare in American Children. It now accounts for up to 45% of the newly diagnosed cases of Type 2 Diabetes! The number of children developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, liver disease and sleep apnea are significantly higher. All of these have a direct relationship to obesity. Technology and convenient foods have left us with a nation of inactive overeaters. Picture the differences of a child in the 1960’s to a child of the 2000’s -
Child in 1965
- Walks/rides bike to school
- Participates in Physical Education Classes daily
- Participates in Recess
- Eats a homemade healthy lunch
- Walks/rides bike home
- Completes homework with pen/paper/books
- Walks to mailbox to get the mail
- Goes outside to play/ride bike/run/sports
- Sits down with family to eat a homemade meal
Child living in 2009
- Drives to school (bus or parent)
- Physical Education no longer available
- Possible recess but only for limited time
- Eats convenience foods or high fat/calorie cafeteria foods
- Drives home (bus or parent)
- Completes homework on computer
- Check email on the computer
- Watches TV, uses computer, plays video games
- Eats convenience foods in front of the TV
As parents the absolute BEST way we can encourage an active life is to be an “active” example:
- Get your children involved in the “food process” – Food shopping, preparing cooking, gardening. They are more likely to eat it if they helped grow and/or prepare it. Make is a learning experience.
- Encourage “Instinctive Eating”. Give your child choices at mealtime. Don’t force them to eat when they are not hungry and don’t make them eat foods they are uncomfortable with. Eat family style with many choices.
- Combine exercise with household chores. Each person does one chore and one exercise until the chore is done.
- Incorporate smaller children into the workout -Put your baby in a front carrier or backpack while you walk or do a workout. Put your baby in a stroller and complete a stroller workout that could include walking, running, skipping, lunging, pushups, plank, dips, etc. Walk with the stroller in different environments – outside, in a mall, at the zoo or theme park (many families have yearly passes..take advantage of them!)
- Bring your family with you when you walk – Make it a nightly routine and let them pick a different “vehicle” to ride every night – bike, scooter, wagon, skateboard, etc. Play games when you walk – Count the fire hydrants, count the birds, identify flowers or the bugs (my boys favorite!!).
- Have a family competition. Each person picks an exercise on Monday. Do as many as you can. Then train throughout the week with the goal of improving by the weekend. The family member who has the highest percentage increase is rewarded. Keep the focus on the fact that everyone is improving.
- Designate one evening as family fitness night. Each person gets their turn at picking the activity for the night as well as a food for dinner. Everyone will get their chance to choose their favorite activity and food and you’ll get LOTS of variety!
- Create a fitness scavenger hunt! Make each item an exercise. When each person finds an item they must use the item. For example, when you find the jumprope you have to jumprope for a minute. The first person to find all the items will have gotten a great workout as well as a prize!
Getting started is the hardest part. Start small and let your children be involved in the planning and choices. Remember that children naturally want to move and they will learn from your behaviors. Show them how to live and love an active lifestyle!-AR