Physical Activity and Childhood Obesity - Part 2

It is evident that childhood obesity has progressed from a cosmetic issue to one that poses a serious threat to the immediate and future health of children. It is also evident that the escalating prevalence of childhood obesity is a direct result of our increasingly sedentary lifestyles. With this new trend toward inactivity it becomes extremely important that we work on making lifestyle changes that lead us to become more active.

Let’s examine the current lifestyles of our children. Begin by creating a list of your children’s daily schedules, for example, what time they wake up in the morning, when they leave for school and how they get to school. Ask your children questions about their typical school day to get an understanding of what they do other than sit in class. Do they have breaks during which they participate in games or activities? What do they do for lunch? Are there intramural programs or any other form of organized activities they may become part of? What do they do when they come home after school? Do they have responsibilities such as walking the dog or cleaning the house, or do they simply play video games and watch television until dinner is ready? What are their usual activities after dinner, when homework is completed? Do they play sports? Do they read? Do they hang out with their friends?

Once you have a list of your children’s daily activities, add new activities or replace sedentary events with those that involve some form of activity. Encourage your children to walk to school. Join them or ensure they walk with friends for safety reasons. Have your children accompany you while walking the dog in the morning or have them help you with basic chores such as raking the leaves or weeding the garden. Daily chores involve more movement than we realize and may be considered a form of exercise. When your children return home from school give them a chore to do before they sit down and watch television or play video games.

Do the gifts you buy for your children promote a sedentary lifestyle or an active one? Instead of buying the newest video games, promote movement by purchasing toys such as balls, skipping ropes, kites and Frisbees. Join your child in the backyard and play catch or throw hoops at a local school. Your children are influenced by your actions, if you are always sedentary on your free time, they will be as well.

When your children reach an age where they would like to seek employment, encourage jobs that involve movement. In the winter suggest shoveling snow from driveways or walkways; in the summer suggest mowing lawns. Your children can deliver newspapers, become tourist guides around the city or, for a real workout, suggest they become rickshaw runners.

Explore the programs offered at your children’s schools, such as intramurals or competitive sports teams, and encourage them to take part. Many competitive leagues outside of school can be quite expensive and time consuming, but don’t let this dissuade you. Offer ideas for fundraising to decrease the costs and share the driving and other responsibilities with the other parents. You should also recognize that organized sports present many great opportunities for children: the chance to travel across the country for tournaments, tours and regular games; and future employment opportunities such as coaching, instructing at day camps and life-guarding.

Older children may be interested in more specific training such as weight lifting. Do not assume that kids should not be training in this manner. Learn the facts by visiting our section on children and exercise and follow one of the Truestar age-appropriate exercise programs.

A great way to keep your family connected and to promote activity is to plan an event for a weekend morning and follow it up with a picnic or a fun lunch that you can all look forward to. Walk on nature trails or go for a hike in a park. Take a bike ride or go in-line skating around the city. In the summer, take advantage of the many public pools your city has to beat the heat. Make winter an active season: skate on public ponds or rinks, introduce your family to downhill and cross country skiing or try snowshoeing or snow boarding. You can even act like a tourist once a month and take your family to a museum or an exhibition or some type of event that gets you moving.

The list of ways to help your child become more active goes on and on, and eventually, regardless of time, money or other constraints, you will find one that you can implement into your weekly schedule. But always remember, the most effortless way to get your child moving is by enjoying activity yourself. Your lifestyle directly influences your children, so become a healthy example and get moving!

Read part 1 of this series.