Make Exercise a Family Affair
An estimated one in five American children is overweight, according to the National Institutes of Health. Serving them healthier meals and exercising as a family can improve short- and long-term health.
Dr. Charles Smith, UAMS family medicine doctor, says that one of the major challenges for people when it comes to fitness is being consistent. “One really good way to maintain consistency is to develop a habit of exercising with your spouse or child(ren). My wife and I often go on long walks together, sometimes with our dog. This gives us our daily workout time, as well as providing a rare opportunity for us to have some in-depth conversation. In addition, I enjoy playing golf with my sons; being on the course with them for four to five hours playing a round of golf provides good family bonding time, as well as a good calorie burning experience.”
Being obese increases a child's risk for several serious childhood medical problems, including diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea and psychological disorders. And in addition to childhood health risks, studies have found overweight kids are at greater risk of becoming obese adults, continuing all the health risks associated with obesity throughout your child's lifetime.
Parents can help kids maintain a healthy weight by getting up and getting out together, making exercise fun. Limiting children’s time in front of the TV, on the computer and playing video games is an important step parents can take to get kids moving. Excessive "screen time" has been identified as a direct cause of obesity in children because it replaces physical activity, increases eating and reduces metabolism.
Get 'em up
Like adults, children should be physically active most, if not all, days of the week. Experts suggest at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity daily for most children. Running, bicycling, jumping rope, dancing and playing basketball or soccer are good ways for children to be active.
These strategies can help you motivate your kids to become more active:
- Don't call it "exercise." Instead, promote "playtime" and encourage activities that are fun and physical, such as hopscotch or jumping rope.
- Learn about your children's favorite games and make this a focus of your family activities. Variety helps to keep them interested, and children love it when you let them choose activities for the family.
- Participate in community fitness events, such as charity walks or fun runs.
- Use family walks or bike rides as a time to do more than just exercise together. Talk about school and family matters when you're taking a break.
- Relive your childhood by playing the games you loved as a kid. Play tag, Red Rover, hide-and-seek or any other fast-moving game.
- Plan outings that involve physical activity, such as going to a skating rink, the zoo or a miniature golf course.
- Turn chores into games. Try raking leaves and jumping in the piles. Have a water fight while washing the car. Or pretend you're digging for treasure while gardening.
- Invite neighborhood kids to play games that require more participants, such as capture the flag or kickball.
But the best way for you to help your children get more exercise is to join in. Being active as a family when children are young will help them choose a more active lifestyle when they are adults. If you and your family will make a conscious effort to be active, you will all share in the exercise benefits and, more importantly, enjoy the time spent together.
In This Issue:
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Make a splash with a water workout
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