Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

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Title: A Fit Child Is A Healthy Child

Category: Child Care


A recent article in the Washington Post summarized many of the negative statistics about youth in our society and their lack of exercise. Over one in five American children is obese. Younger children weigh more and have more body fat than the same age children did 20 years ago. Fifty-five percent of girls cannot do even a single chin-up. The American Academy of Pediatrics has been actively involved in trying to reverse these statistics by promoting healthy exercise starting at a young age.

Just a few weeks ago my own back went out in a way that it has never done before. I realized that a big cause of this is the sedentary lifestyle I have developed with working long days, eating too much and then falling asleep without any regular exercise program. It taught me the vital importance of regular exercise that is fun, that is aerobic and that involves stretching of muscles and joints. Kids do this naturally when they play and run as small children. One of the best ways we can promote good health and exercise in our young children is to provide a nice grassy back yard to run and play in. If this is impossible in the winter bring them to a gym or simply fix a room in the house where they can move around and tumble and stretch. Go to your local health club and let them do aerobics with you or circuit weight training with proper supervision or swim or play raquetball or whatever sport you and your children are interested in. Ideally, involve your kids in these sports at a young age and make it a family affair so that they can enjoy not only the sport but the fellowship and the time with their parents and their siblings.

One of my happiest young memories is playing stick baseball in the back yard with my family and our neighbors. I can remember being so sad when it finally got dark and we had to end the game. Those special occasions come and go too fast. Don't let the opportunity pass your family by.

When you have a chance to walk upstairs or park a little farther from a store and walk with your children into and out of the store, take advantage of it. These little bursts of exercise, added together can be significant over time. A simple walk around the block or a bike ride around the neighborhood is a good way for a family to keep their muscles and joints toned up. Set an example as a parent by turning off the TV more often and getting outdoors with your kids. Encourage them in intramural sports but be careful not to push them too much at a young age or let competition become too serious. Try to teach them the fun of sports and let them enjoy participation, whether they win or lose. It is also a great way for them to learn how to get along with others and how to work toward goals. They will learn that practice does make perfect and persistence and hard work is the key to success in sports and in life.