One out of 3 kids in the United States is now considered overweight or obese. Why?
Many kids are spending less time exercising and more time in front of the TV, computer or video-game console. And today’s busy families have fewer free moments to prepare nutritious, home-cooked meals.
Preventing kids from becoming overweight means adapting the way your family eats and exercises, and how you spend time together.
Fitness in childhood lays the foundation for a healthy life. In addition to helping prevent heart disease, exercise helps to reduce stress, which is a big factor in emotional health.
Reduce Down Time
One of the best ways to get kids to be more active is to limit the amount of time spent in sedentary activities, especially watching TV or playing video games. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under the age of 2 years watch no TV at all and that screen time should be limited to no more than 1 to 2 hours of quality programming a day for kids 2 years and older.
Exercise is the Answer
Helping children lead healthy lifestyles begins with parents who lead by example. Encourage your child to exercise for 20 to 40 minutes a day. Even better, make exercise a family activity. You’ll improve your entire family’s health and strengthen your family ties.
When most adults think about exercise, they imagine working out in the gym on a treadmill or lifting weights. But for kids, exercise means playing and being physically active.
Kids exercise when they have gym class at school, soccer practice or dance class. They’re also exercising when they’re at recess, riding bikes or playing tag. Everyone can benefit from regular exercise.
Kids who are active will:
- have stronger muscles and bones
- have a leaner body because exercise helps control body fat
- be less likely to become overweight
- decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- possibly lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels
- have a better outlook on life
Besides enjoying the health benefits of regular exercise, kids who are physically fit sleep better and are better able to handle physical and emotional challenges — from running to catch a bus to studying for a test.
How Much Exercise is Healthy?
A balanced fitness session includes stretching exercises that help improve flexibility, allowing muscles and joints to bend and move easily through their full range of motion.
At least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise, such as playing soccer to help build up cardiovascular endurance; and strengthening exercises like push-ups, stomach crunches, pull-ups, and other exercises help tone and strengthen muscles.
Kids also incorporate strength activities in their play when they climb, do a handstand or wrestle. Make sure your child takes at least 5 minutes of cool-down time after exercising.
Note: The information in this article was provided by our partners, the pediatric cardiology specialists at Akron Children's Hospital, who see patients at MetroHealth Medical Center.