Fighting Childhood Obesity
The latest stats from the CDC show that childhood obesity is something we should all be concerned about. It affects 14.7 million American children – that’s 19.7 percent of all kids. There is an increase in complications resulting from obesity, including diabetes, hypertension and breathing problems.
It’s important to start tackling this from an early age to give your kids the best start in life. While a healthy diet is the first line of defense, raising a healthy child involves keeping them active too.
Join us as we explore how you can make exercise a regular part of life for your child.
Why Kids Should Be Active
Helping your kids stay active is about more than helping them avoid the risks of childhood obesity.
Being active has wide-ranging benefits. It helps them to improve their fitness which gives them a greater sense of general well-being. They can maintain healthy muscle tone which helps them to avoid injury and maintain good posture.
Bones need exercise too. The stress that we put on them when we’re active is crucial. Your kids developing bones will get stronger when they exercise regularly.
Physical activity for children also benefits their mental and emotional health. It can reduce anxiety and depression symptoms. A study has also found that it could reduce the risk of developing depression and anxiety in the long term.
So how can you successfully raise an active child?
Motivation Is the Key
When your kids were small, they probably loved playing in the park. During those early years, they’re uninhibited and love to run free, not caring about how they look or what anyone else is doing. But as they get older, it’s easy for self-consciousness and a lack of motivation to set in.
As they play with other kids, they may notice that they’re not as athletically talented as others. This can be discouraging but it’s important not to let it become a barrier to being active.
Choose the Right Activities
Little league and soccer may be right for some kids, but not all are itching to sign up. Start by thinking about your child’s age and their preferences. Getting them to do something that’s too complicated or too easy won’t be motivating.
Also, it’s good to expose your kids to a wide range of activities while they’re young and let them guide you. If they only get involved in a couple of sports at school, they may quickly mentally checkout and conclude sports are not their thing. Could it be that they just haven’t found their niche yet?
Some kids don’t enjoy competitive sports, but they enjoy other activities that are just about getting out and having fun. Riding bikes, swimming for fun, and even walking the dog are great activities that don’t require a high level of athleticism.
If they are a natural athlete, motivation may not be too big of an issue. But if they’re not, keep it fun and celebrate their achievements.
They’ll learn a valuable life lesson that hard work pays off. They’ll enjoy whatever they’re doing even more the better they get at it. This might also build on this success and get interested in other activities.
It’s Not All About Winning
Of course, it’s fun to win sometimes. But if sports are just about winning, they’ll quickly become demotivating for the majority of kids.
Help them to see that practice does lead to improvement but that there’s joy in the process. Keeping active is a win in itself.
Teach Them How to Exercise Safely
A few knocks and scrapes are inevitable at times. But by providing your kids with the right equipment you can help them keep injuries to a minimum. Also teach them about the importance of staying hydrated and wearing sun protection.
Lead By Example
Sorry parents, to raise an active child you need to be an active adult. Although we’re not really apologizing. It’s great for everyone’s health to schedule activities that the whole family can enjoy together.
Swimming, bike rides, hikes, tennis – all of these are fun activities that the family can enjoy. Start with regular, simple games of catch and work up from there.
As well as exercising with your kids, make sure they see you fit exercise into your schedule. This teaches them that even though you’re busy, it’s important. Just like brushing their teeth before they go to bed, you’ll teach them a good habit that’ll protect their health for years to come.
Don’t Leave It to Chance
We all lead super busy, hectic lives. So, like anything else that’s important, we need to schedule time for exercise.
That’s not too hard when kids are young as you’re in control of their schedule. But as your kids get older, the pressures of schoolwork will increase. It’s easy for active under 12s to turn into inactive teens who are glued to their phones.
The battle for the attention of teens has never been greater. A 2016 study by Harvard linked the use of electronic devices in teens with increased levels of obesity. Just like parents used to set TV limits in the nineties, maybe it’s time to set some smaller-screen boundaries for your teen.
This will take time and willpower, but the results will be well worth it. Rather than making it a battle ground, incentivize them by choosing activities they enjoy. And do them together.
It could start with something as simple as going for a 15-minute walk around the block together after dinner or scheduling a hike at the weekend. There’s the added bonus that it gives you some time to talk and bond.
Exercise – A Crucial Tool in the Fight Against Childhood Obesity
No parent wants their child to face the risks of childhood obesity. It takes some forethought and effort but creating a regular schedule of exercise for the whole family will soon pay off. You’ll all experience the health benefits and it can also bring everyone together.
At Brown & Toland, our Bay Area pediatricians are here to provide your child the best possible care. Call us at 800.225.5637 or find a doctor online today.
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