Exercise is key for healthy kids

I am concerned about my overweight child.  Can you give me any advice on an appropriate diet and exercise routine?

Childhood obesity is quickly becoming a serious problem all over the world.  The problem escalates as overweight children often grow into overweight adults who face serious medical issues.  Overweight and obese children are at risk for developing medical problems that affect their present and future health and quality of life, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, bone and joint issues, shortness of breath, disrupted sleep, liver disease and other issues.  Overweight children are also likely to suffer from depression and be at risk for developing eating disorders or abusing drugs.

It is challenging for parents to help their overweight children adopt healthy lifestyles to achieve healthy weights.  Dieting is not recommended for children, because they require appropriate nutrients for growth and development.  The key to keeping children of all ages at a healthy weight is taking a whole-family approach.  It’s the “practice what you preach” mentality.  Get your kids involved by letting them help you plan and prepare healthy meals, and take them along when you go grocery shopping so they can learn how to make healthy choices.  Fill the kitchen with fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  Stock the refrigerator with healthy snacks, and replace sodas and sugar-sweetened drinks with water, 100 percent juice and skim milk.  The whole family will benefit from this plan.

The percentage of overweight and obese children and teens has more than doubled over the last 30 years.  Although many factors contribute to this epidemic, children are becoming more sedentary.  The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that children get at least 60 minutes of exercise per day.  This might seem daunting to your TV or video game lover.  Fortunately, the 60 minutes can be broken up into smaller bouts of activity each day.  Encourage fun activities like bike riding, jumping rope, swimming or skating.  Get your child involved with yard work or volunteer opportunities.  Your video game enthusiast might even enjoy some of the new video fitness programs like the Wii Fit.  Again, incorporate the whole family or neighborhood into these activities.  Regularly scheduled family trips to the park, zoo, skating rink or miniature golf course are fun and beneficial physical activities for adults and kids alike.

While supporting your child with healthy eating habits and exercise, remember that it is important to listen to your child’s concerns.  Weight can be a sensitive subject, especially for teens.  This can be a challenging process and often involves a great deal of lifestyle changes for the entire family.  Remain positive and encouraging.  Show love, support and understanding.

Eating well, exercising regularly and incorporating healthy habits into your family’s daily life will model a healthy lifestyle for your children that will have a lasting impact on their life.  Most importantly, remember to let your children know that you love them – no matter what the scale says – and that you want to help them be happy and healthy.

Anthony G. Barnes is the club owner at Anytime Fitness in Chester and holds a BS Degree in Sports Medicine and Exercise Science.  To submit a question for future articles, please contact the author: anthony.barnes @ anytimefitness.com


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