Steamboat Springs When I think of our hometown, I think active adults, healthy food choices, smiles on everybody that is exercising, youth sports, competition. Then I am reminded how my family, specifically my children and husband, are noncompetitively physically fit. This is challenging in the exercise mecca that we live in, but it can be done. In some instances, the adrenaline rush isn’t the need to be met, but the mere fun of moving, laughing and feeling good is equivalent to a healthy lifestyle. Parents and children can accomplish this by spending time together exercising and becoming fit in a new activity, or getting better at one. The result is decreasing the risk of childhood obesity and improving wellness.
Studies show that healthy habits are the answers to a growing illness in our country, childhood obesity. One study showed that obese school-age children were less likely to bring a lunch to school and more likely to average two hours daily of viewing TV, computer or video showings. University of Mexico research has found less obese child populations that exercise regularly, took a PE class or participated in sports. It’s difficult to fathom that PE isn’t a daily activity in the U.S. The National Institute of Health recommends 60 minutes three days per week of walking, running, skipping, dancing, biking, jumping jacks, swimming, and even playing on the playground as moderate to intense aerobic activities. Evidence-based research supports play and parent modeling of active lifestyles are decreasing the rates of overweight and obese children.
A healthy lifestyle for children also includes regular anticipatory guidance with family physicians. Evaluating wellness, risks of being overweight, high blood pressure, depression, safety and high-risk behavior are focal points in well visits for children as young as 13, and a measurement of body mass index is encouraged as young as 6. Children who are overweight have a greater tendency for depressed emotions and anxious feelings. These are important reasons to have children visit yearly with health care providers and to encourage healthy lifestyles. If healthy life choices are encouraged at kindergarten age, they may last a lifetime.
We are fortunate to have multiple physical activities available. How many of these can children do with parents that are not always competitive-based and are affordable? This is challenging. Weather also creates challenges to begin or continue aerobic activities. Rain, shine or snow flurries, go on a walk on a trail with your child, and develop a love of nature. Ride bikes and set an example of bike safety. Volley the tennis ball and have a great laugh. Go to the park and turn the playground into an obstacle course. Spend an hour working on rhythm, increasing caloric expenditure and smiling at a Zumba class. Play catch with a splash ball at the pool. It will soon develop into tag, running in the water and smiles, which are priceless. Invite other children to join in, and you will see the happiness spill out.
Continue to support the role models at fitness centers and elementary schools that encourage parent-child participants. This is an invaluable and dedicated example of our wellness professionals’ concern about childhood obesity. This can aid in developing the health and wellness for youth and adult populations. Our off seasons can be inspiring times for parents to re-evaluate resolutions and partner with their children in an effort to have fun and be healthier.
Camille Fischer, RN BSN