SIMPLYkc Magazine – April 2012 issue
by STACEY HATTON
There has been so much damage to our eating habits from the offerings at fast-food chains over the last few decades. And while one just can’t instantaneously revolutionize a country’s eating habits, some establishments are making some modifications. However, the essential changes must be a combination of altering what goes into the mouths of babes, the quantity of what enters those mouths, and assisting children to get off the couch or computer chair and start moving. We just need to get motivated and stick with it!
Present health risks for youth
The Center of Disease Control and Protection reports, “Obesity now affects 17% of all children and adolescents in the United States – triple the rate from just one generation ago.” This is not only a staggering statistic for the future of our children’s health, but there are risks at hand associated with obesity even at young ages:
- High blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
- Increased risk of impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
- Breathing problems, such as sleep apnea, and asthma.
- Joint problems and musculoskeletal discomfort.
- Fatty liver disease, gallstones, and gastro-esophageal reflux (i.e., heartburn).
- Obese children and adolescents have a greater risk of social and psychological problems, such as discrimination and poor self-esteem, which can continue into adulthood.
(CDC report, April 2011)
What needs to be done?
Obviously something drastic and permanent; but change is not easy, especially when it comes to convincing families to change their entire lifestyle. “Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommend that children and teens get physical activity for at least 1 hour per day on most (or better yet, all) days of the week,” says the American Academy of Pediatrics. How many of us are squeezing this into our kids’ busy days? It sounds like a lot, but with 1440 minutes in the day, deliberate scheduling, repetition and/or breaking up the 60 minutes into 15 minute increments, the task can become manageable.
Julie a Physical Education teacher in an Olathe elementary school recommends, “Family activities can be as simple as taking a walk or bike ride after dinner or playing in the backyard, the playground at your local park or school. The Wii has several games that the whole family can enjoy, especially when going outside is not an option. My family especially enjoys playing Just Dance together and Wii boxing and tennis can really get your heart pumping, too! Playing chase is a game most children enjoy, too, and can be a great workout for parents and children alike without requiring any equipment! Shooting baskets or dribbling a basketball, kicking soccer balls, or just seeing how many times you can keep a balloon in the air are fun alternatives! Hula hoops and jump ropes are fun right now for my early elementary school-aged kids and they think it’s really fun to see how good (or not so good) Mom and Dad are! What I think is most important is to mix it up, especially with younger children! If they enjoy what they are doing and having fun, exercise is an added bonus!”
Family Fun Activities
Needing help coming up with more ways to motivate the family to keep moving? Here are a few ideas:
1) Cardio activities: tag, hide-and-seek, duck-duck-goose, dodge ball, basketball, soccer, tennis, badminton, walking, jogging/running, musical chairs, the Hokey-Pokey, Wii (“Fit” or “Just Dance”), dance-freeze (everybody dance until the music stops and then freeze in a crazy position).
2) Coordination & Strength: tug-of-war, jungle gyms, swings, teeter-totters, ice skating, roller skating, swimming, bike riding.
3) Family Contests: hula hoop, jump rope, obstacle course, three-legged race.
Walking School Bus
Fewer children are walking to school these days. Lack of safe routes, inconvenience, idleness, and time constraints are just a few excuses made by families, but just walking to school could make a big difference in the amount of daily exercise your child gets. A “walking school bus” is comprised of group of children walking to school along with one or more adults. It is best to start with a small group and then increase numbers if it’s successful and safe. The program leader determines the interest in your neighborhood. Checking with other parents, school officials, and law enforcement is also suggested. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend one adult for every six children. If children are age 10 or older, fewer adults may be needed. If children are ages 4 to 6, one adult per three children is recommended,” says National Center for Safe Routes to School. A detailed startup plan can be found at: www.walkingschoolbus.org.
White House Involvement
First Lady Michelle Obama faces this country’s childhood obesity epidemic head on with her program titled “Let’s Move!” It focuses on increasing physical fitness and improving nutrition for children. An element of the program is the HealthierUS Schools Challenge, where schools are required to meet higher standards in nutrition and physical activity. The goal is to reduce the childhood obesity rate to just five percent by 2030. For more information, check out: www.letsmove.gov.
©2012, Hatton. All rights reserved.