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Get Your Child Moving!

Por Leslie Rodríguez, RD, LD* -

Results from the 200 3-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), indicate that an estimated 1 7%of children and adolescents ages 2-19 years are overweight.  Overweight kids are more likely to become heavy adults.

Obesity in adulthood increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, certain types of cancer, and other chronic disorders. If you want your child to grow up to be a strong and healthy adult, now is the time to begin motivating him or her to be active.

The best way to motivate your children to exercise is to make it fun for them to do so. Find activities that your children enjoy, but don’t force them to participate in activities only you enjoy. Let your child experiment with various sports and find what’s most enjoyable. Some children enjoy team sports, such as soccer or basketball, while others prefer individual activities, like running or dancing. If they find something they like, they are more likely to stay active.

Always set a good example for your kids. They look up to you. If you are overweight and inactive, it gives the message to your children that it is okay to be sedentary. By exercising with them, you’ll show your kids that physical activity is very important for everyone in the family. Do things together such as riding bikes, walking together, or even playing baseball.

In order to get kids moving you must first keep them from sitting on the couch and watching TV too frequently. Turn it off! Children tend to spend several hours a day (some studies have reported more than 5 hours among many children) watching television. This is mainly because children are often left at home unsupervised and parents don’t want them playing outside due to safety concerns. If you cannot be home to watch your children play outdoors, ask a neighbor or friend to monitor your children's play. Set aside time for them to play outside when you get home.

Decrease the use of television, videos, and computer games for your entire family. Set a daily time limit, like 30 minutes or 1 hour, for sedentary activities. Use a timer to track the time your child has spent engaging in these activities.

Although organized sports are popular among children, they may not provide them with enough aerobic activity. For example, when playing baseball, there are only short bursts of activity, and the rest of the time the children mostly stand around. Therefore, you may want to consider alternatives to organized sports, such as bicycling, jump roping, and in-line skating. These alternatives are also useful for teaching children lifelong exercise habits, since many adults do not tend to participate in organized sports. Some children don’t participate in team sports because they are embarrassed or do not feel like they are good enough. If your children are afraid to participate in sports due to a lack of confidence, help them with their skills. If you do not have the skills, ask a coach from the child’s school.

Support physical activity (P.E.) in your children’s school. Ask about your child's P.E. program and how you can assist. If your child does not have P.E. or the current program is not sufficient, encourage your school board to make it a priority. Ensure that school P.E. classes are fun and that teachers are not using exercise as a form of punishment, like making children run laps for getting in trouble. This makes children think negatively about exercise.

When encouraging your children to exercise, include messages about healthy eating habits. Many children play video and computer games all day, watch television that markets junk food, and eat fast food very frequently. The two problems (poor diet and sedentary lifestyle) coexist. It is up to you to make exercise and good nutrition a part of your lifestyle so that your children will follow your example.

A startlingly 70% of overweight children age 10 to 13 years will become overweight and obese adults. Help prevent this from happening! Encourage your children to exercise. Active children will increase their chance of becoming healthy adults. Children who enjoy exercise may develop a lifelong, healthy habit of being physically active. If they stay active as adults, they will enjoy better health and may live longer than their less active peers. People who remain active on a regular basis tend to live longer than people who are not regularly active.

* Specialist in sports nutrition and physical activity with MyDiet™


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