Family ice skating

Helping Kids Get Active

Today, there’s a world of entertainment for kids that has nothing to do with playing outside. Establishing healthy activity and eating patterns needs to start at a young age. But here’s a scary fact: About 75% of kids around the country aren’t getting the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity daily, including kids who are overweight.

For these kids, it can be more difficult to be active due to embarrassment, peer bullying, and physical challenges associated with getting into an activity routine. Overweight and obese youth also tend to be less active due to poor motor skills.

So how can we get kids who are overweight to be more active?

First, it’s important for parents to be involved and encouraging. Research shows that parents today see normal weight children as being underweight, while overweight children are viewed as normal, and children with obesity are seen as being just “a little too heavy.” With these misconceptions parents are much less likely to prioritize healthy behaviors like physical activity.

Second, the activity should be something the child will enjoy. Very few kids are going to be excited about a gym; I suggest parents and caregivers focus on increasing playtime.

Muscle-strengthening activities can be unstructured and part of play, such as playing on playground equipment, climbing trees, and playing tug-of-war or structured, such as lifting weights or working with resistance bands. Aerobic training are those in which young people rhythmically move their large muscles. Running, hopping, skipping, jumping rope, swimming, dancing, and bicycling are all examples of aerobic activities. Aerobic activities increase cardiorespiratory fitness. Although aerobic activity is important, if you start with fun activities involving strength exercises you can build up the child’s confidence and strength over time to eventually include more aerobics.

Try games where kids toss balls with varying high-to-low throws. Squatting to catch a low throw is much more fun than standing at the gym doing squats. Medicine balls are great because kids can use them at home and while playing with others.

Parents/caregivers should also encourage kids to be creative and come up with their own exercises – this makes the activity more fun.

The bottom line: it’s too challenging and discouraging for an overweight child to jump right into high intensity physical activity. We need to start by simply getting kids out of being sedentary through fun activities, then work up from there.

 

Posted on July 15, 2015 by Sonja Goedkoop, MSPH, RD @ American Institute for Cancer Research