Pediatricians continue to be concerned by the trends they’re seeing in the levels of physical activity of children, which appear to be going in the wrong direction. A recent survey concluded that less than 25% of children in grades 4 through 12 participate in 20 minutes of vigorous activity or 30 minutes of any physical activity per day. Particularly with weight management as a goal, those numbers simply are not very good enough.
We know regular physical activity will help your child lose weight and maintain that weight loss, but it has many other benefits which include:
- Stronger bones and joints
- Greater muscle strength
- A decrease in body fat
- Improved flexibility
- A healthier cardiovascular system (thus reducing his risk of developing heart disease and high blood pressure)
- A reduced likelihood of developing diabetes
- More energy
- A greater ability to handle stress
- Improvements in self-confidence and self-esteem
- Greater social acceptance by physically active peers
- Opportunities to make new friends
- Better concentration at school
You first need to have a clear picture of your child’s activity level—and whether they need to change course. Are they watching too much TV? Spending too much time on the computer or mobile phone? Are they spending too little time playing outdoors after school or on weekends?
As a parent, you can help your child if they are overweight to get moving. Make sure they are doing some physical activity every day. In fact, it should become as routine a part of their life as much as brushing their teeth and sleeping.
Where do you begin? How much time does your child need to spend being active and how intense does this activity need to be?
The answers to these questions are probably different for your child than it is for another child. If your child is overweight due to being completely sedentary, with no PE classes at school, no outdoor play, no extracurricular physical activities, and hours of TV watching every day, their starting point will be different than that of a fairly active child. There are plenty of activities that they can choose from, but they should begin slowly and gradually pick up the pace.
Encourage your child to begin with something as simple as taking walk or hike through a nearby park, you may even want to join them. If they are really out of shape or if they have trouble imagining doing any walking at all, encourage them to set a goal of walking for only 1 or 2 minutes at a time. Once they realize that 1 – 2 minutes is an attainable target, have them increase their walking sessions progressively, to 3-4 minutes each time, then 5 minutes, and so on, until their walking for 30 minutes or more. If your youngster is already in better shape, encourage them to start with a 15-minute walk and then increase it in 5-minute increments to 20 minutes, 25 minutes, and beyond. The ultimate goal is to have them spend an hour being active each day.
To most of us, a minute or two of walking doesn’t sound like much. In fact, many adolescents and adults think that exercise doesn’t really count unless it’s intense and even hurts, no pain, no gain. But for a child trying to lose weight, every little bit of activity helps, whether it’s a short walk to the school bus stop or a climb up a flight of stairs at school. Ultimately, once your child gets into better shape, you can encourage them to increase the duration and intensity of their activity, but the most important thing is that they just get moving and do it regularly.
If you need help with getting your child on the path of proper nutrition, contact Premiere Care Pediatrics and Dr. Garver or go online to premiercarepediatrics.net