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Exercise for Overweight Children Yes' and No's!

Por Carola Sixto -

Fighting the inactivity of children due to screen hours in front of the computer, video games, or television is one of the greatest concerns to adults. These concerns are intensified in the case of obese children. Here are some ideas to incorporate healthy habits in children's lives.
There are children who just do two types of exercises per day: handling the remote control of the TV or video game, and going to the kitchen to find a snack every time they're hungry. Some parents relax by thinking "all children are the same way,” but that's not true, especially when it comes to obese children. "Being physically active every day is crucial, especially for children who struggle with weight problems," said David Kahan, a physical education teacher and researcher at the San Diego State University. "Young people with overweight and obesity have a strong social, psychological, and emotional load that often leads to anger, despair, and, ultimately, a sedentary lifestyle. That's why it's important to help young people get motivated with physical activity. "

Basic Needs In the "Back to School Tips" (2008), the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and adolescents do at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. However, in the case of obese children, this time is not always enough. This is demonstrated in the EarlyBird survey, conducted by researchers at the Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth, United Kingdom, published in Among its findings, the researchers report that an hour of moderate-intensity physical activity per day isn't enough to face the growing problem of childhood obesity.

In addition to fighting obesity, it has been found that children who are engaged in physical activity at the recommended levels have a healthier blood pressure, lower blood cholesterol and triglycerides, and less insulin resistance (which is an important risk factor for type 2 diabetes).

Get Your Kids Moving!
In his book "Supersized P.E.," Professor Kahan gives some tips on how to transform the current "passivity" of our children into "activity":

  1. Keep them active. During the winter, some families suspend the daily physical activity of children, so it's important to keep them active for several hours, even inside the house. To do so, plan some activities and motivate creative, spontaneous games.
    If your children ask you to bring them something from the second floor, let them go get it! Making them organize their rooms is another excellent way of keeping them active for a while.
  2. ¡Ration their screen time! Even if they're on vacations, suggest creating a reasonable screen time schedule, including video games, computer, and T.V. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of quality screen time per day. To do this, sit down with your children a week before, and follow this original classification. After making a list of their favorite T.V. shows, classify them in one of these categories: "must," "maybe," or "could live without." Keep only those classified as "must." In addition, plan different activities to replace the time they would've spent in front of the T.V. A child that weighs 100 pounds (45 Kg) and spends 3 1/2 hours in front of the T.V. burns 166 calories. If this child decided to swim instead, he/she would burn 666 calories; brisk walking (for example, walking the dog), 687 calories; playing basketball, 937 calories; going out for a day trip, 957 calories.
  3. Create simple, fun games: Physical activity doesn't have to be boring and formal. The neighborhood where you live can become the perfect place to play the funniest games. Create an ingenious treasure hunt so your kids can walk or ride their bikes around the neighborhood in order to find the answers to questions like: what's the color of the house at 6522 Street? Which house has a gray car parked in the garage? The questions you can make up are countless.
  4. Avoid public exposure. Overweight children should not engage in public activities where they might feel watched over or criticized on their physical performance. Under this environment, they probably won't be able to enjoy the activity. Instead, look for a place where your child can feel comfortable at his/her own pace.
  5. Choose an activity that's appropriate for your child's age. If you want your child to be excited about physical activity, make sure to find a game or sport that's appropriate for his/her age. The American Association of Pediatrics and the Mayo Clinic suggest the following activities: 
    • Children 2 to 3 years old: Unstructured games, always under adult supervision, allow them to explore a variety of safe environments. Watch your child while he/she is learning the basic movements: walking, running, moving, jumping, and swimming.
    • Pre-school children, 4 to 6 years old: They can walk long distances, run, dance, climb, and play ball. Supervise them closely and organize their activities. Begin to introduce more structured games, like hopscotch, for example.
    • School age children, 7 to 9 years old: Walking, running, doing gymnastics, and biking are the most popular exercises within this age group. They can do more sophisticated movements, as they incorporate visual track and balance. They can also participate in sports activities, as long as they enjoy them and don't feel under pressure. Although they still need supervision, this is a good time to show them support, trust, and interest.


“Encourage Your Child to Be Physically Active”, American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Experts say insufficient exercise recommended for children”, Medical News Today.

“How can I get my child to be more physically active?”, American Academy of Pediatrics.


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