Childhood obesity is becoming an epidemic problem in this country. Research shows that teaching a healthy lifestyle and the importance of fitness can start at an early age. Children whose parents do that are more likely to grow up and make movement health a natural part of their daily lives.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) obesity in children has increased among children of all ages by 5-12% depending on the age group, and that obese children are at an increased risk of having high cholesterol and heart disease. Even more frightening is that obese children are more likely to be obese as adults, and obesity is more severe in adults who were also fat as kids.
Kids learn more from parents, health care providers, sibling role models, etc. than we might imagine. If children see their parents eat healthy foods, and the kids are exposed to healthy and nutritious food choices, then they learn how to make healthy eating habits. Instead of turning to cookies and chips when a child needs a snack, introduce him to crunchy veggies and healthy dips like hummus. Instead of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on processed white bread, choose almond butter on whole grain toast.
Just as adults teach kids to make better choices about eating simply by setting the right example, they can do the same with fitness and movement. Instead of sitting down in front of the TV every night, go for a walk or a bike ride after dinner as a family. Take children to a park and play chase. Take them hiking where they have the opportunity to see squirrels and chipmunks and deer. The key is to do fun activities that keep kids interested in an activity without it feeling like “exercise.”
Parents, is there a sport you and your child both enjoy? Tennis? Soccer? Softball? Encourage your child to join a community league team and volunteer to coach. Not only will you stay off the sofa more, but also you and your child will bond over a healthy, physical activity. Even the youngest of children can learn to make movement a part of every day. Dance with your toddlers or walk with them while they ride tricycles. All of these suggestions are in Parents magazines, health magazines, online publishing and in an information essay like this one.
Other family activities can be just as important for getting everyone moving as it is from keeping everyone from melting their minds on television and video games. Plant a garden together. Let each member of the family choose a vegetable, fruit, or flowering plant they want to grow. Incorporate community service with your physical activity. Clean up the environment, pick up trash at the school playground or park, paint the house of an elderly member of the community, adopt a stretch of highway to maintain, mow lawns and shovel snow for those who cannot do the job themselves. Go outside and play!
Once you begin to open your eyes to the possibilities beyond the next television program, you will be amazed at how much there is to DO out there. The benefits are amazing – healthier kids, kids who sleep better at night, kids who fare better academically, and kids with a better, more positive outlook on health and healthy movement.
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Miss McCulla is a retired English teacher of 32 years. She has Mastery of the grammar and mechanics of English, and has taught expository, fiction writing, and rhetorical skills to hundreds of students and aspiring writers throughout her career. She has written/edited/self-published five books, and currently manages and edits a writing blog called The Underground Tutor where she gathers essays, articles, entries, papers, manuals, profiles, criticisms, analyses of literature, just like those asked of students and writers in the university and publishers.
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