According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity affects one in every five children and adolescents in the United States.
The behaviors that lead to excess weight gain are essentially the same as adults: not enough physical activity, overeating, a sedentary lifestyle such as watching TV or playing video games and not enough sleep.
Consuming a healthy diet and being physically active is necessary for children to grow, maintain a healthy weight, build strong muscles and bones and prevent chronic diseases. It’s best to get kids moving from a young age so that regular physical activity becomes part of their lifestyle, but it is never too late to start them.
I know it can be challenging for parents to make sure their kids are active enough and eating right. These days, parents must accompany kids to parks, working parents may have less time to prepare meals and screens present a whole new challenge.
It is recommended children get a minimum of 60 minutes of vigorous activity per day. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be all at once. Short bursts of exercise throughout the day provide the same benefit.
If you have a child who plays a sport, getting enough activity is easy, but there are ways to get kids moving that don’t involve sports or require any athletic ability.
A great way to get them engaged is to play games. Kids tend to get bored with repetitive exercises and they certainly don’t want to feel like they are “working.”
While it might be difficult to find an hour to spend at the park, you might spare a few minutes to play Frisbee in the yard with them, or have your child invite a few neighbors over to play tag, have Nerf gun wars, jump rope, or come up with their own fun.
If it’s age-appropriate, they can ride bikes around the neighborhood. When my youngest child has friends over, I allow them to play video games only after they have played outside for at least 30 minutes.
Teach by example. Kids who see their parents exercising will likely take an interest in it as well. If your child is interested in resistance training, they can work with light dumbbells, resistance bands or balls at home or in a gym as long as they can move with proper technique (and the gym allows children).
At the YMCA, kids can use the equipment starting at age 10 under the direct supervision of a parent. They are first required to do a fitness education session which teaches them how to use the equipment with proper form, gym etiquette and the importance of cardiovascular exercise and resistance training.
It’s great to see kids get excited about working out and see their confidence grow as they progress. Get them moving doing something they enjoy and they will develop healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
Perhaps even more challenging than getting kids to move is filling their bellies with nutritious foods. Do you have healthy recipes that work? Share them for a chance to be featured in my next column.
To help keep teaching kids how to move and learn all summer long, the Plant City YMCA is hosting its annual Camp Extravaganza featuring Healthy Kids Day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday, April 27. It’s free and open to the entire community.