As part of my ACE Health Coach certification, I am responsible for taking continuing education classes. Since I work a lot with youth in various programs, I have focused a large part of my studies on youth fitness. September happens to be National Childhood Obesity Awareness month and this gives us the perfect opportunity to discuss keeping our youth active and healthy.
Our lives have become incredibly convenient in recent years. Technology allows us to work from home, enjoy fun games on computers and the television, and we can even purchase basic essentials from the touch of a screen. Very few children or adults walk or ride their bikes to work or school.
At the same time, budget cuts in schools have eliminated recess sessions and physical education classes. Large amounts of homework and busy schedules have children doing fewer and fewer extracurricular activities. This means both children and adults are spending far more time sitting down.
Type 2 diabetes was once considered “adult onset” diabetes. However, youth and adolescents are being diagnosed with this metabolic disease. Unfortunately, children and youth who struggle with weight and obesity issues, tend to continue to struggle with these same issues throughout adulthood.
Research has shown that children need about 60 minutes of activity per day. However, this amount can be accumulated over the course of 24 hours, making it an easily attainable number. Quick walks, bike rides, playing catch with friends, or jumping rope are just a few simple ways to get in a few minutes of activity at times.
It is important to keep in mind that children generally don’t like doing sustained bouts of exercise like adults. It can feel difficult and boring; both of which will deter youth from continuing. Instead, we should focus on finding activities that children enjoy and allow frequent rests and hydration breaks. Keep in mind that children have much shorter attention spans and prefer quick bouts of activity followed by rest. Therefore, if you do want to introduce running to your little ones, you might have more success aiming for an initial run/walk plan.
When children find activities that they enjoy and feel good about, they are much more likely to continue. Even better, if children learn to enjoy physical activities, odds are in their favor that they will continue to be active adults.
Aim for variety. Avoid focusing on specializing on one specific sport at an early age. Allow children to try many different sports and activities and give them the chance to excel at each. Unlike adults who tend to specialize in one general area, children are capable of being great at several different types of activities. Where we might be great long distance runners, children are able to excel in both long distance and strength training, etc.
Adults are great role models. When we make active lifestyles a priority, it teaches our children a lesson. If we act like exercise or eating well are punishment, children will perceive this the same way. Instead, when we find activities that we enjoy and make them a part of our lives, our children see that this is as normal. Family support and leading by example are great ways to show our youth that being active and healthy can be fun.
How do you like to lead by example? What kinds of activities do you like to do on your own or with children?