By Juhee Shah, Team Manager and Health and Fitness Coach for Greatness Fitness
Last month’s article discussed the prevalence of childhood obesity, habits that can lead to obesity, how obesity affects the lives of children, and recommendations for physical activity. This article will discuss how parents can help prevent obesity and promote a healthy lifestyle for their children.
As a kid, I remember my parents shuttling my sister and me from activity to activity. We both participated in many sports, such as tennis, Tae Kwon Do, cross country, track and swimming. To this day, a healthy lifestyle holds importance in both our lives. We continue to be physically active and eat a nutritious diet. Our experience was a direct result of our parents exposing us, from a young age, to an active lifestyle and healthy eating habits. Parents can have a huge impact on their children’s habits by creating a healthy and active home environment and leading by example. After all, actions speak louder than words.
The first and most important way that parents can help their children is to set a positive example by leading a healthy lifestyle themselves.
- The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity) per week and muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week
- Follow a healthy eating pattern that includes a variety of vegetables, whole fruits, whole grains, a variety of proteins and healthy fats. Try to limit added sugars and trans fats.
Parents can have a huge impact on their children’s habits by creating a healthy and active home environment and leading by example.
The second way parents can help their children is to become familiar with the physical activity guidelines for children. Examples of what each category entails are shown in the chart below.
- Children should do at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day, most of which should be aerobic activity.
- Vigorous-intensity aerobic activity should be included on at least 3 days of the week.
- As part of their 60 or more minutes of daily activity, muscle-strengthening activities should be included on at least 3 days of the week.
- As part of their 60 or more minutes of daily activity, bone-strengthening activities should be included on at least 3 days of the week.
The third way parents can help their children is to incorporate healthy habits into their lifestyle. Examples are listed below.
- Make physical activity a part of your family’s daily routine by setting aside a time of the day for this.
- Typical activities include walking, hiking, biking, swimming and playing active games, such as basketball, tennis, and catch.
- Promote outdoor activities by visiting parks, fields, courts and swimming pools.
- Buy children equipment that promote activity, such as basketballs, soccer balls, skates, bikes, frisbees, etc.
- Expose children to a variety of team and individual sports.
- Limit sedentary behavior, such as watching tv and playing on the computer.
- Provide kids with a variety of healthy food options, such as fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods. A general guideline is 85-90% of your family’s diet should be comprised of whole foods.
- Limit your children’s intake of packaged and processed foods to approximately 10-15% of their diet. Limit intake of added sugar, as well.
- Make sure your children drink enough water throughout the day. Five to 8 year olds should drink 5 glasses per day, 9 to 12 year olds should drink 7 glasses and kids 13 years and older should drink 8 to 10 glasses per day.
- Give kids child-sized portions and let them ask for more food if they are still hungry.
- Talk to kids about healthy nutrition while shopping and cooking with them.
Most important of all, make exercise and healthy eating fun and enjoyable! Children will adopt healthy habits from their parents when they have positive experiences incorporating these habits. Exercise and healthy eating should be an enjoyable way of life!
Juhee Shah is the Team Manager and Health and Fitness Coach for Greatness Fitness. She has both a B.S. in Kinesiology and a M.S. in Exercise Physiology. Juhee has received her certifications from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is a certified Personal Trainer.