In today’s world, walking is limited, school gym classes are being cut, and cars, elevators and buses eliminate the need for natural exercise. Even if your child isn’t obese, it is important to help him develop healthy physical activity habits that can continue in the future.
The National Center for Health Statistics has revealed that 30 percent of American adults age 20 and older are obese. This amounts to more than 60 million people. Since 1980 the percentage of young people who are overweight has more than tripled. Obesity and unhealthy lifestyles can lead to serious health problems in the future, from diabetes and heart disease to various cancers.
The American Heart Association recommends that children and adolescents participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every day. It is your responsibility to impart healthy habits on your child. Try the following fun ways to incorporate physical activity into your parenting:
- Set an example. The younger a child is, the more he looks to his parents to set trends. Look after your own health and engage in regular physical activity so that your children will know to do the same.
- Turn exercise into quality time. It is important that you make spending time with your child a priority. Being active together can create positive associations with physical activity, and it will be great bonding time.
- Make exercise fun. If you have a preschool child, pedal cars, big wheels and tricycles will let him have fun and give him great exercise. For older children, bikes, scooters, hockey sticks and baseball bats will encourage him to be active.
- Be positive. Offering encouragement and support will help your children find sport and activities that build their self esteem. Be sure to attend their sporting events, and make the experience more about doing their best than winning.
- Limit TV time. Allow television or video games only during a designated time of day, such as after homework and physical activities are over for the evening.
Make physical activity a regular routine for your entire family, and you will start motivating each other to stay healthy. Developing positive habits can protect your children from obesity and all of its side effects in the future.
Susan Matherly is director at A Children’s Place, a service of Ephraim McDowell Health. She can be contacted at (859) 236-7176.