KIDS FROM BECOMING COUCH POTATOES
Debbie Glasser, Special to The Miami Herald
other day, my ninth-grade daughter said she was worried about her
performance on an upcoming test.
"Is it Algebra 2? Or The Odyssey?'' I asked.
it turns out, the class that I thought would be Emily's easiest
is actually one of her most challenging. She'll be evaluated on
her ability to do push-ups, sit-ups, sprints and other physical
that's a good thing.
to a report in the October issue of Archives of Pediatrics &
Adolescent Medicine, about one-third of boys and girls ages 12 to
19 in the United States do not meet national standards for physical
agree, fitness is important at every stage, not just during the
promotes flexibility, coordination, cardiac conditioning, and even
improves the immune system, as well as mental and emotional health,''
said Dr. Tracie Miller, professor of pediatrics at the University
challenge is finding ways to incorporate it into daily life.
lifestyles often leave little time for physical activity,'' Miller
said. "Many families are simply exhausted at the end of the
is another concern, especially in cities,'' she said. "Playing
outside may not be particularly safe, and parents are often much
more comfortable with their child at home watching TV or playing
on the computer.''
there are things you can do to promote safe, enjoyable physical
activities and support your children's health and well-being. Here
are some suggestions:
Don't wait. The sooner you encourage your kids to enjoy physical
play, the better, according to Miller.
increased activity in children at an early age can set the stage
for positive health habits as they grow,'' she said. Of course,
physical activity during the early years should be about fun, not
formal exercises. For the preschool set, provide plenty of opportunities
to run around, jump, dance, stretch and move.
Serve those veggies. "It takes time to make healthy, home-cooked
meals,'' Miller said, but it's important to avoid the lure of the
"quick bite.'' Cook a few meals ahead of time and freeze them.
Keep healthy snacks and drinks on hand so your kids will be more
likely to choose fruit and vegetables than high-fat chips and sugar-laden
Make it a priority. It doesn't take much time to incorporate physical
activity into your life, Miller said. She suggests families commit
to one to two hours of active and aerobic play each day.
may be as simple as getting the kids outside - with supervision,''
she said. "Kids have great imaginations and should be able
to stay active, play games and have fun.''
Curb sedentary activities. "Limit the computer to academic,
school-related tasks - and shut off the TV!'' Miller said. "It
may be hard for kids at first, but parents will be amazed at how
creative and active their children can be, as well as how much their
family interactions can increase.''
Tap into community resources. Enroll school-age children in supervised,
after-school activities, Miller said.
have personally made observations that kids who come home at 5 p.m.
after a day of school and after-school activities are happier, thinner,
and even do better academically,'' she said. "Coming home to
an empty house or to a baby-sitter with no motivation to get children
out and active is a recipe for disaster.
child can participate in some type of after-school sport,'' she
said. "Talent should not be a consideration.''
Be supportive. "Sometimes overweight kids don't want to be
active because they're fearful that they'll be made fun of by their
peers,'' Miller said. "It's important to provide a supportive
environment for all kids to become active.''
encourages parents to look for activities that are well-suited to
their children's age, ability and interests.
Join 'em. "Children learn by example,'' she said. "They
will not want to be physically active if they see their parents
watching excessive amounts of television, eating the wrong foods
and not engaging in physical activity themselves. The entire family
has to be motivated to be more active.''
Be safe. Before starting any new exercise or physical activity,
talk to your healthcare provider to discuss the guidelines that
are most appropriate for your family.
Debbie Glasser, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist and founder
of NewsFor Parents.org,
an online newsletter for parents. She can be reached at debbie@NewsForParents.org
November 2, 2006
Copyright (c) 2006 The Miami Herald