One out of every three children in the United States faces excess weight and health related problems. In Utah, one in every five elementary age children is overweight or at risk of being overweight.
Furthermore, being overweight as a child is the strongest predictor of adult obesity. In Utah, more than half of adults are overweight or obese.
The health risks for overweight children include an increased risk for Type II diabetes, increased blood pressure, and high cholesterol. All are risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Other concerns include social problems, lack of confidence, and decreases in energy.
What Can We Do?
- Be a role model. Kids don’t always hear what you say, but they see what you do. Show them the enjoyment and satisfaction that comes from being active.
- Focus on fun. Kids enjoy moving, it’s our job to create a place for this to occur.
- Involve family and friends. Physical activity is to be done daily, so get the whole family and/or friends involved. Children/teenagers can be enrolled in community sports programs and can enjoy family outings that include: hiking, bike riding, going to the park, going for a walk, gardening, sports, etc. The easiest way to start for beginners is walking, and pedometers can be very fun and motivating for kids! Enroll them on a recreational swim team. Typically, they only need to be able to swim one length of the pool (they can walk back) and get back in the lane. Enroll in swimming lessons if they don’t know how to swim.
- Moving = Sitting rule. Before your child is allowed to watch TV or play computer games, he must have done that same amount of physical activity during the day (i.e. 1/2 hour of walking to and from school can work towards a 1/2 hour of television).
- Set and achieve goals. Run/walk a marathon over the summer. Log ½ mile/day (4 city blocks) and your family will have achieved your goal in 52 days (less than 2 months). For older children, have them run a mile, then have them set a goal to have a personal best (improved time) by the end of summer. Identify what will be needed to achieve this goal – consistency will come from their training.
The rewards and benefits of being active and teaching your children to be active, eat healthy, and feel comfortable with their bodies is priceless.
Don’t let this summer pass you and your family by without taking advantage of the beautiful weather to start a family fitness plan.