Every American knows that one of the most pressing issues in our country is related to the greasy hamburgers and fries that our citizens wolf down on a daily basis: obesity. Recent statistics have shown that obesity is present and continually growing in our country, with over 25% of Americans being considered obese. While more present in adults, American children are not immune to obesity. In fact, in the past 30 years, childhood obesity rates have more than tripled, from just of 5% to nearly 20% of children aged from 6-19 being characterized by obese.
The problem should be of utmost interest to parents of young children. In a society where obesity is seemingly the natural progression of growth, parents are becoming more and more aware that the responsibility lies on their shoulders to encourage their children to live a healthy, active lifestyle. While many children have no interest in sports or exercise, there are many other ways to keep your children active and healthy. For example, children playing with their peers on a playground get enough exercise for their growing bodies. Exercise, like the aerobic workout of playing tag, can help children develop stronger muscles and bones, decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes, lower blood pressure, and prevent obesity.
The question, then, is not whether children benefit from exercise. Instead, we should ask how we, as parents, can keep our children active and living a healthy lifestyle. This concern should extend far beyond the “playground years” of our children, as children in their teens face a different set of problems. Increased school work and less opportunity to “play” can lead to a child who struggles to stay active.
To keep your children active and fighting the dangers of obesity and the other health concerns that come with inactivity, remember these tips:
1. Be Encouraging
As a parent, being encouraging to your child is the most important thing. Whether your child is participating in sports activities or just playing on a playground, your presence and encouragement will let your child know that you love and care for them. Remember to reinforce that exercise is beneficial to their health; active children also tend to have a better outlook on life.
2. Find an activity that matches your child’s age
If you are asking your skinny 6-year old daughter to play football, you may be mismatching your child with activities that do not interest him or her. Toddlers can play at home or at a daycare center. Younger children should be encouraged to play outside, and older children may enjoy team sports, once they can comprehend rules and have the motor skills to do so.
3. Find an activity that matches your child’s personality
If your child does not like sports, think of other ways to keep him or her active. Consider buying a bike or taking family hikes. If your child is into sports and the social aspect of team sports, encourage and enable your child to play sports with their school or a related community sports program.
4. Make it fun!
Choose activities that your child will enjoy. Children happily do activities that they consider fun and entertaining, so finding an activity that allows children to have fun while staying active and exercising is the best choice.
5. Involve yourself
If you child does not possess skills for sports, practice with your child until he or she develops the necessary skills. Bring your child to a playground to stay active, or bring yourself to sports events that your children are participating in. Having a parent around can make the difference!
Childhood obesity can cause your children to develop risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure. Obesity also causes children to be at greater risk for sleep apnea, low self-esteem, and problems with bones and joints in the body. If the child stays obese as an adult, problems such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and others become a risk. Keeping your children active is a responsibility that all parents should take very seriously. By following the tips given in this article, you can take the next step in advancing the health of the children who bring joy to your life everyday!