Q: [All Ages] I feel like my Summer-active kids are turning into slugs now that school has set in. Between this and the end-of-month candypalooza, I’m concerned about their health.
A: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children should get at least 60 minutes of exercise daily, with aerobic activity comprising the bulk of it. (When you get right down to it, we’re talking about children playing and having fun.) Between school, homework, parents’ work schedules and ever-present screens, exercise is often overlooked. Pediatricians like myself see firsthand the terrible toll that a sedentary lifestyle can exact on children, here are some tips to help.
First, take a long hard look in the mirror. Do you practice what you preach? As a parent, set the example for your kids; make fitness a central part of your entire family’s life.
Park the car far away from the store and walk. Climb stairs every chance you get. Invite your kids to shoot some hoops. Play a game of tag in the backyard. Make physical activity a game. Challenge your children to see how high they can jump — and how softly and quietly they can land. Tell them to show you what a cheetah looks like when it runs, or how a gorilla’s arms swing when it moves. Bet them that you can do more sit-ups or pushups than them in one minute (and let them win).
After dinner, take a family walk around the block or to the neighborhood park. Find a new trail to explore near your home every weekend. Make walking the dog your kids’ responsibility.
Set up bicycle or skating obstacle courses in your driveway, street or local park, and challenge your kids and their friends to complete with them within a given timeframe (“That was really good, but I bet you can set a new personal best next time …”).
Resist the temptation to buy them motorized scooters and electric cars that require no physical exertion.
Sign them up for soccer, Little League, basketball, swimming lessons, or other organized youth sport and stay involved either by helping coach, ref and attending practices and games.
You get the idea. With a little imagination, you can get, and keep, your children moving — and in the process, help them maintain a healthy weight, build muscle and strong bones, contribute to their emotional wellbeing and establish positive lifelong habits.
Teresa Lee, M.D., F.A.A.P., is a pediatrician with Hoag Medical Group. Dr. Lee’s focus is on collaborating with and listening to her patients. She believes it is extremely important to gain the input of her patients in order to develop a plan that is best suited for the individual. www.hoagmedicalgroup.com