September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, thus what better way to start this Move It Monday than to encourage our children to be active. Aside from eating too many calories, lack of physical activity is a major cause of childhood obesity. While there are several factors causing childhood obesity, one significant factor is that our children are spending a great deal of their time connected to media, be it television or digital media. A recent study sites that children ages 8-18 years of age spend on average 7.5 hours a day engaged in various forms of media such as cell phones, computers, video games, movies, television and on social networks. Also, 83% of children 6 months of age to 7 years of age spend 2 hours a day watching television or watching videos. All the time that kids spend connected to media keeps them away from physical activity.
Talk to your child’s pediatrician or family physician about specific exercise recommendations for your child. As a general guideline, the Center for Disease Control recommends children and adolescents should engage in 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day. The CDC also further recommends the following:
- Aerobic Activity should make up most of your child’s 60 or more minutes. This can include either moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking or vigorous-intensity activity such as running.
- Include Muscle Strengthening exercises such as gymnastics or push-ups, at least 3 days per week as part of your child’s 60 or more minutes.
- Include Bone Strengthening activities, such as jumping rope or running, at least 3 days per week as part of your child’s 60 or more minutes.
Once you are armed with the exercise recommendations, there are some things you can do as a parent to promote physical activity in your child. Here are some suggestions:
- Make it fun.
- Experiment with different activities until your child find something they really enjoy.
- Limit media time. Set limits on the amount of time watching TV, playing video games or using cell phones. The CDC recommends no more than 2 hours per day of media connection.
- Start them out at an early age. Introduce your child to an active lifestyle at an early age, thus increasing their likelihood of being active as an adult. Studies have shown that obese children were more likely than children of normal weight to be obese as adults.
- Lead by example. Commit to your own health and show your kids how physical activity is important for the entire family.
- Do activities together. Incorporate physical activity that you can do as a family such as biking, hiking or a family pick up game of basketball. Not only will you be active together, but it’s quality time spent as a family.
- Know your child’s school physical education program and policies.
Bottom-line, keep your children active and encourage a healthy lifestyle. By doing this we can reduce their chance of developing diabetes, hypertension or high cholesterol later in life. Look out for a future post where I will discuss childhood obesity in the African American community.
In the meantime, watch this viral video below showing how one Physical Education Teacher made exercise fun. This PE teacher took a popular dance craze, the “Whip Nae Nae” dance, which by the way I am still trying to perfect, into a fun exercise routine. The kids look happy and committed. Watch the video below.
by Marjorie Binette, MD