By Jyl Steinback
through the boob tube generation with a burst of exercising energy
has never been more difficult and challenging, yet fostering a positive
attitude toward healthy living from an early age can promote healthy
habits for a lifetime! Remember when hopscotch, tag, jump rope,
and ring-around-the-rosie were the play yard favorites - long before
Pac-man, Mario, and Pokémon were mans' best friends and little
earthly bodies barely moved from the video screens. Physical education
programs in schools have been cut back, unsafe neighborhoods have
limited outdoor play, and the trend toward supersize portions has
boosted calorie and fat intake to unbalanced standards.
obesity has reached epidemic proportions; the number of children
who are overweight has doubled in the last two to three decades.
Currently one child in five is overweight, and, while there are
numerous causes for this increase in obesity, kids who watch the
most hours of television have the highest incidence of obesity.
We've got to get back to the basics to bring those bodies back to
healthy living before we create another generation of overweight
children and adolescents! BALANCE, VARIETY, and MODERATION hold
the key to healthy living whether the focus is food or fitness.
much physical activity do children need? Children and adolescents
aged 5-18 should aim for at least one hour of moderate intensity
activity each day; this can be performed all at once or spread throughout
the day in shorter sessions, if desired.
kind of physical activity is best? Whatever your child will do regularly!
Help him/her find activities that are fun and rewarding! Depending
on age, a variety of activities should be included to prevent boredom
while providing challenges. These can include anything from organized
sports, games and play, or daily activities (walking to school).
for children should always be FUN! Developing a positive attitude
toward physical activity from an early age eliminates any need to
force FITNESS! Children will do it because they LOVE it! You can
entice the most sedentary kids to get physical - make the most of
the opportunities you and your family have to be active!
*Make exercise fun! A positive image toward exercise needs to be
introduced and encouraged from an early age.
*DON'T select activities that are too difficult for kids to master
- they will feel like failures and won't want to keep doing the
activity. While rollerblading, ice skating, or karate may be great
for some kids, it could be far too complex and frustrating for others.
DO listen to your kids! Ease up if they are tired, injured or bored.
They must enjoy the activity to make it a habit! Children develop
skills at different ages - don't compare children and don't push
them beyond their physical abilities.
*DO select activities the kids will enjoy - select activities they
will SUCCEED at! Start simple and slow - take a hike through the
park or a walk around the neighborhood. Better yet
child what he/she would like to do!
*DO focus on every success and turn every "failed" situation
into a growing experience. Even if your child comes in last place
at the swim meet, stress the accomplishments: improved strokes,
faster time, or stronger endurance.
*DO be sensitive to your child's needs. Forcing children to participate
in activities that are too difficult or embarrassing will only encourage
negativity. Activities need to be fun, motivating, and stimulating.
Children need to succeed and have lots of variety and challenges.
*DO make sure kids' activities are right for their age, size, and
physical development. Let children explore and discover their "exercise
niche." Some children enjoy team sports whereas others enjoy
the challenge of individual sports (tennis, swimming, golf).
*DON'T focus on winning - keep team spirit healthy. Focus on the
positive aspects of living healthy and avoid pushing too hard.
*Make exercise a FUN family affair! BEWARE
Your attitude is
contagious - if you (as a parent) approach exercise as a chore rather
than a fun-filled activity, you can hardly expect any more enthusiasm
from your child. Parents who are physically active have a six times
greater chance of developing lifelong fitness habits in their children.
effort based on individual progress - DON'T set up family competitions!
Display a family chart and track each person's exercise progress.
Determine weekly or monthly rewards ahead of time and display those
along with the progress chart - NEVER use food for reward! Some
nonfood reward ideas include: movie tickets, time spent with a family
member, manicure or pedicure (for girls), book, visit to zoo
*Be creative - using the "tools" in your own home, develop
your own circuit-training program. Establish workout stations using
stairs, canned or bottled goods, jump ropes, chairs, balls, and
walls. For example: Climb stairs for 2 minutes, do bicep curls with
soup cans, jump rope for 45 seconds, etc.
*Pump up the volume and dance, dance, dance! Put on your favorite
tunes and dance to the music.
*Invite friends and family over for a barbecue or picnic and play
some tag, touch football, or soccer.
*Schedule family walks after dinner instead of watching television.
*Plan family outings and vacations around physical activities the
*Select fitness-oriented gifts (jump rope, basketball, bike) to
match our child's interest and skill level.
Use And Obesity Among Children. http://www.mediafamily.org/facts/facts_tvandobchild.shtml
Steinback, "America's Healthiest Mom," is a cookbook author,
personal trainer and health expert. Her popular series "Family
Fit Lifestyle Cookbooks" have sold more than 2 million copies.
"The Busy Mom's Make it Quick Cookbook" (October, 2004)
includes over 300 low-fat, quick and healthy recipes. Jyl is a popular
motivational speaker and television personality, and she continues
as a personal trainer six days a week in Scottsdale, Arizona. The
books and fitness products she creates are designed to instill healthy
living into every lifestyle.