Parents, how healthy is your child? Fact: Today’s children may be the first generation to die before their parents due to increased inactivity and poor nutrition.
Healthy eating habits and an active lifestyle should begin at birth. According to the US Today, about 60% of toddlers and preschoolers who are overweight or obese during their preschool years still weigh too much at age 12, setting them on a path toward adult obesity and its attendant health problems. Does your child go to school where he or she spends all day sitting in class and then comes home and spends four to six hours watching television or playing video games, with the only body part getting any exercise being the fingers that push the remote or press the game controller? Our society has become very sedentary, and television, computer and video games contribute to children’s inactive lifestyles. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 32% of all American children carry more pounds then they should. This means that one in three American kids is overweight. These extra pounds lead to conditions such as diabetes, liver disease, heart disease, gall stones, joint breakdown, and hypertension – all of which are usually associated with people in their 40s or higher. Other health problems that your child may have to look forward to is high cholesterol and blood pressure, sleep apnea, border line diabetes, and/or obesity. Parents: This is your wake-up call! One of the best strategies to combat excess weight in your child is to improve the diet and exercise levels of your entire family, because let’s face it, you are steering the wheel towards activity or inactivity. My hope here is to provide you with some ideas to help engage your child and family in exercise and proper nutrition.
Move it! Only 25% of kids participate in physical education today. Now, more than ever, parents play an important role in getting and keeping their children active. There are many games that you can play with your young child that will provide opportunities for fun and fitness for both of you. Walking, playing, exploring your backyard or using playground equipment at a local park can be fun for the entire family. Children who exercise have a higher self-esteem, stronger bones and muscles, and have less risk for diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension. Fit kids also focus better in school and have a better outlook on life. Before you start any exercise program, make sure your child gets a physical examination from your pediatrician. This will give you a better idea of what your child’s overall health status is. Also, consider having a fitness professional perform a health and fitness evaluation on your older child. Fitness professionals can give you the baseline numbers regarding cardiovascular endurance, strength, body fat percentage, and other important information that can be tracked and tested again for overall health and fitness progression. There are also many local clubs or camps that your kids can join. It will not only keep them active but will help them increase their social skills. Be proactive and encourage your child to participate. If they don’t like team sports, go for a bike ride, a jog, or a walk. Like you, your child needs an hour of exercise most days of the week. Be a role model! It will be easier for your child to start exercising if they see you taking action. If you need help, hire a fitness professional or a coach. A personal trainer can make fitness fun for your child, and a coaching lesson can get him or her involved in team sports at a young age.
Eat Fit! Eating properly and changing your habits at the table can be extremely difficult, but the benefits are worth it. Your child can be as active as Lance Armstrong, but if you’re not fueling the body properly it will not be effective. With our busy schedules, it is easy to fall into a routine of sugar breakfast cereals and picking up fast foods on the way home from work for dinner. Plan and prepare your week of meals. You control what sits in the refrigerator and in the pantry. If you plan properly and take control, your child will have healthy meals and snacks throughout the day. Also, get your kids involved in the kitchen. If they learn and see the process of cooking healthy foods, it will teach them great habits and get them off the couch. Children in their toddler and preschool years are very impressionable, which makes it the perfect time to help them form good eating habits. Parents need to check out childcare, preschool and the public school breakfast/lunch programs. Few uniform standards apply to nutrition or physical activity offerings in the nation’s child care centers. With the exception of the federal Head Start program, child care facilities are regulated by states, and state rules vary widely. Most public schools prepared meals have very little nutritional value. They are high in calories, fat, and sodium. Some cafeteria lunches can top over 1,000 calories, which is close to or more than half your child’s daily allowance. Do yourself and your child a favor and prepare their breakfast and lunch at home. As awareness and prevention of childhood obesity is increasing, many schools are improving the nutritional quality of the meals being served to students. As a parent, be proactive and speak up – tell your school board your concerns of prepared school meals. Teach your kids to eat five to six small meals and snacks throughout the day. Keep it simple when planning and preparing. The idea is to eat every three to four hours. Doing this will keep their energy level up and metabolism burning. Only eating two or three times per day creates a roller coaster ride for their metabolism and energy levels.
I hope that this article will help you take a good look at the lifestyle of your child and your entire family. I hope that my tips will help make fitness and nutrition a family affair for you. The health habits that children are developing today are terrible and easily preventable. Activity is crucial – so, start moving it! And, activity without proper nutrition will not get it done – so, eat fit!