By the HELP Committee and Havre Public Schools
In the last two decades the number of overweight and obese children has more than doubled, putting them at risk to become overweight or obese adults with serious problems such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and even psychological and social problems. Fortunately, parents can take steps now to prevent this.
University of Michigan exercise physiologist Audrey Hazekamp suggests that parents teach their children by example to get up, get out and together make exercise fun. Doing so will keep the whole family physically and emotionally healthier.
Taking family walks or bike rides are just a few simple ways to get everyone physically involved and interacting. Plus, it helps parents to teach their kids how to lead an active and healthy lifestyle.
One of the easiest ways to get the family moving is to encourage playing outside during the day. Hazekamp recommends limiting unhealthy habits like watching television, playing video games or sitting at the computer, which keep children inside and inactive.
"Limiting the amount of TV children watch, video games they play or the amount of computer time they have is really an important part of the parents' responsibility to get their kids moving," Hazekamp says.
Keys to motivating family exercise:
Find out what your children like to do and make this a focus of your family activities.
Keep the word "exercise" out of your vocabulary. Instead, promote "play time" and encourage activities that are fun and physical, such as hopscotch, jumping rope, tag or hide-and-go-seek.
Use family walks or bike rides as a time to do more than just exercise together.
Try planning social outings to involve physical activity such as taking the family out dancing or roller-skating.
Make it a rule to leave the television off one day a week. This encourages physical activity and outdoor play.
Don't make exercise a chore or work; keep it light and enjoyable.
Vary the activities, and let your children take turns choosing what the family will do.
Trips to the park, zoo or miniature golf course can be fun and involve a lot of walking.
Try to be available as much as possible when your children play games such as tag, capture the flag, or kickball.
"Bringing in other kids will make exercise look more like play while creating a fun atmosphere for physical activity," says Hazekamp.
She also suggests organizing a neighborhood game of tag or hide-and-go-seek to get your children outdoors and moving with others.
Physical activity can help everyone in the family be and feel healthier. Exercise can:
Boost energy level
Improve balance, coordination and flexibility
Strengthen the heart, lungs, bones and muscles
Burn the fat and calories you consume throughout the day
Help you sleep better at night
Reduce stress and depression
Reduce the risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol
If the whole family makes the conscious decision to be active, they all share the exercise benefits and, most importantly, the family can enjoy the "play" time together, says Hazekamp.
For more information about this and related topics, contact the HELP Committee and Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-line at 265-6206.