Sunday, March 1, 2009

Spring Into Family Fitness

By encouraging children to be active, parents can help prevent health risks associated with childhood obesity.

Happy family walking in woods.
Set an example for the kids by engaging the whole family in physical exercise.

Parents are important models for their children. Children watch the actions of parents and other adults, and learn from what they see. One lesson children learn is how to maintain their health, including exercise habits.

Overweight parents are at an increased risk of having children with weight problems — and overweight children are more likely to become obese adults. In the 1970s, only about 5 percent of children were overweight. Today, at least 15 percent of children are overweight. By encouraging children to be active, parents can help prevent health risks associated with childhood obesity.

Children and adolescents should be physically active at least 60 minutes on most days, if not every day. Here are some tips to help you and your children get into a springtime fitness routine:

  • Put your infant or toddler in a stroller and go for a walk. Or, strap your child into a bicycle carrier with a helmet and go for a ride.
  • If your child can ride a bicycle, jog alongside or get on your own bicycle.
  • Limit the amount of time you watch television. By doing this, you will find it easier to limit the amount of time your child watches TV and movies, or plays video and computer games. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a maximum of two hours of viewing time for children each day.
  • Engage the whole family in physical activities, such as Frisbee, playing catch, hiking, gardening, swimming or rollerblading.
  • Sign up for exercise classes like kickboxing or join a sports team. Then sign up your children for classes or team sports.
  • Give children rewards, such as a basketball, that encourage them to be more active.

Springtime can be the perfect setting for your children to establish lifelong activity patterns — and a great time for you to set an example by improving your own exercise habits.

— By Tiffany Reiss, PhD, chair of Exercise Science and Wellness, Bastyr University

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