How Fit is your child?

Children’s fitness is under serious scrutiny these days with 20% of all U.S. children aged 6-19 being clinically obese. (Obesity is defined as having a body fat percentage of over 25-30% depending upon gender.)  Despite the fact that Physical Education (P.E.) classes are, at best, offered only day a week in most public schools, our awareness that children need to move kids7more is on the rise. But understanding and taking action are two different things.  We’re not taking enough action – pun intended!

For the focus of this article, I’m not going to focus on the nutrition side of obesity.  The facts are out there, and more parent than ever are starting to change how they feed their children (less fast food, smaller portions, healthier choices, etc.). What I want to focus on today is simple: movement.

kids3

The bottom line always comes down to this: calories in vs. calories out.  Regardless of what nutritional choices your children make or receive, they need to burn more than they ingest. With heavier homework demands, longer school days or commutes too and from, and all things technology focused (from internet communication to gaming systems) it’s very hard for the average youngster to fit exercise into their day. Unless they are involved with a specific sport, they’re not likely to get more than a half hour of physical activity per day.  This is not enough.

kids1So how do you carve more time out of a jam-packed schedule to help your child move more? First of all, make the commitment – decide that it’s a priority.  Second, keep the activity ACTIVE but varied. Third, schedule a specific time and stick to it. If it can’t be daily, then make it a few times weekly, but for twice as long.

Here are some random examples of activities that will help children burn calories, build strength and endurance, while exciting them and offering a needed break from brain-busting homework or mind-numbing video games and social networking:

1. Play any Xbox 360 Kinnect or Wii game that keeps them up and movingkids4

2. Create mini challenges for them such as hula-hoop through an entire song, then jumping jacks through the next;  or dance-offs with friends or siblings

3. If you have a pool create a fun water-aerobics routine for them with songs they like

kids25. Design an in-home or yard obstacle course of running, jumping, crawling, squatting, etc. Use your imagination, or better yet, use theirs.  Have them design it, then challenge them to cycle through the course, each time bettering their last speed

6. Install a basketball hoop above the garage (or indoor nurf basketball) and challenge them to a game

The idea here is to make it fun, but make it mandatory.  Every day, 30 minutes minimum.  And if you hadn’t noticed, I included YOU the parent in some of these activities – because you need to MOVE too.kids6

For more facts about childhood/adolescent obesity:  http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm

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