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Today’s kids weigh more and move less than ever before. According to data from the State of Obesity, a report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Ohio has the nation’s sixth highest obesity rate for youth ages 10 to 17. Lack of exercise is no doubt a contributing factor. The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that only 26 percent of Ohio’s school-aged children and adolescents achieve the minimum recommended amount of physical activity (60 minutes) each day, and 13 percent report no physical activity at all.
What’s changed? For one thing, the simple suggestion to “go outside and play” now works only for those lucky enough to have both neighborhood friends who are home and adults around to keep an eye out. For another, the proliferation of screen- based entertainments means kids don’t actually have to leave the house—or even the couch—to be social. Moreover, many schools, under pressure to raise standardized test scores, have cut back on recess. And kids’ sports leagues are becoming increasingly competitive, leaving the child of average skills on the sidelines—if he or she makes the team at all.
The good news is that many of the negative trends can be countered by parental effort. Moms and dads who model active behavior and a healthy diet can make a big difference. That means doing things like walking or biking together in the evening, hiking on weekends and being active when you take kids to the playground. Try to schedule at least 30 minutes three times a week to be active with your kids.
Parents also can help by setting ground rules and expectations. When you’re preparing dinner, tell the kids not to watch TV while they’re waiting—they can help you or do Wii Fit (an active play system used with the Nintendo Wii console) for 30 minutes. See the sidebar “Make Activity Part of Life” for more ideas.
Experts acknowledge that, given the demands on parents’ time, making family fitness a priority is easier said than done.
It may help to know that these activities are among the most important things you can do for your child. The American Heart Association reports that physical activity influences weight, reduces blood pressure, raises HDL (“good”) cholesterol, reduces the risk of diabetes and some kinds of cancer—and leads to greater self-confidence and higher self-esteem. Happy exercising!
The best way to create healthy exercise habits is to incorporate physical activity into daily life. Here are some ideas for getting your kids up and moving.
Find an exercise or sport your child enjoys. In addition to team sports that schools and communities offer, dance, tennis and martial arts are good options for youngsters and teens not interested in team sports.
Check your local recreation program or fitness facility such as the TriHealth Fitness & Health Pavilion for low-cost classes.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that school-aged children and adolescents (ages 6 to 17) participate in a variety of physical activities they enjoy that are appropriate for their age. They should be physically active for 60 minutes or more each day and include these elements: