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Posts Tagged ‘physical activity’


At a young age, health habits develop and can affect your child throughout their lives, especially when it comes to eating and physical activity.  You are the fundamental decision-maker when it comes to the well-being of your child and can help him or her make healthy decisions from early on.  Take advantage of your role and foster your child’s 7 healthy habits…they can make a lifetime of difference.

Healthy kids get physical activity every day!

Healthy kids: 

  1. Get at least one hour of physical activity daily.  Shorter bouts of exercise that tally up to 60 minutes count! Strive for vigorous activity at least three days per week.  Try to make physical activity a part of your family’s fun routine and schedule activities together.
  2. Limit “screen time” to less than two hours per day.  Researchers show a strong correlation with the number of hours spent watching TV to increased rates of obesity in children.  Regulating the amount of time your child spends in front of a screen like television, video games and computers, promotes less sit-down time which can result in more activity and less overeating.
  3. Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages.  Urge your child to drink water, 100% fruit juice or low fat milk instead of soda, sugar-sweetened fruit drinks, sports drinks, and sweetened iced teas.  These sugary drinks offer little nutritional value and excess calories that can contribute to weight gain.  Limiting sugary drinks in your home can support your child in choosing healthier options.
  4. Eat five or more cups of fruits and veggies daily.  Fruits and vegetables are nutrient-dense, low calorie foods that provide fiber, promoting fullness after meals.  Reaching 5 cups per day can be accomplished by serving fruit at every meal, and a vegetable at 2 meals and/or snacks.  If you want more fruits and veggies to be eaten, make sure you have ample choices in your kitchen.
  5. Eat 5 family meals weekly.  Eating meals together gives you a chance to help your child develop a healthy attitude toward food. It also allows you to serve as a healthy eating role model, make sure your kids are eating nutritious foods, and introduce new foods.  Set aside your meals as family time and eat together as often as possible.
  6. Eat nutritious snacks.  Plan meals and snacks to occur every 3-4 hours.  Skipping meals or snacks can be a trap for overeating later on.  Help your kids by having wholesome power snacks on hand that defy hunger.  Opting for whole foods will give your child a rich source of nutrients and will help them be physically satisfied.
  7. Eat “fun foods” in moderation. There are endless opportunities for fun foods like sweets, soda, and fried foods. Balancing “fun foods” with a variety of whole, natural foods from the new food guide (more on this soon) is the key to healthy eating.  Aim for 1 to 2 “fun foods” daily—it’s a good rule of thumb.  Help your child make decisions about what is most special!

The best time to start instilling these behaviors in children is when they’re young, before unhealthy choices become bad habits.  Research shows children are more willing to eat healthy foods and be active if they see their parents doing it first.   Just telling your kids what to do won’t work (that’s the Authoritarian way)—they need to see you choosing healthy behaviors!

The American Dietetic Association offers a free healthy habits for healthy kids guide and healthy habits quiz you can take here to find out if your family is on track.

Summer is a great time to work on the 7 Habits!

Contributing Author:  Katherine Fowler, MS, RD, LDN

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Kids speak…and people listen.

Here’s a follow-up to my post from the 11 year old who had an opinion on junk food.  I was reminded by John, from the American Institutes for Research an assistant to  NHLBI in their health outreach efforts, that it isn’t just about food…there is more at play (literally) when talking about childhood obesity (and, I couldn’t agree more, John…).

Turn Off the TV!

John pointed out an important piece to the puzzle, and here’s what he has to say:

“It’s pretty amazing to see how perceptive an 11 year-old can be about the obesity problem in America.  But junk food is only part of the problem.  Every day, children and teens spend more than four hours watching TV and more than seven hours using entertainment media instead of engaging in physical activity. These children are more likely to be overweight than children who walk, run, and play more often.”

John reminded me that this week is Turn Off the Screen Week (April 18-24), a week of replacing TV (and other screens such as the computer) with more physical activity for kids.

Happily, spring is sprouting and the heat is usually enough enticement to get kids outside.  If you need tips for getting your kids to be more active, check out this list from WeCan! (Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity and Nutrition),a science-based national education program from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). And if that’s not enough, they have also come up with a tip sheet for reducing screen time.

Will you be turning off the TV this week?  C’mon….

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Children love to move.  And need to move.  And let’s face it, kids need lots of physical activity to maintain good health and a body weight that is right for them, along with plenty of healthy food options.  Lack of daily physical activity is a strong contributor to childhood obesity.  These perspectives and guidelines may help your child become more active:

The Physical Prescription:  Duration, intensity, and type of activity do matter.  While any movement is better than none, experts recommend at least 1 hour of physical activity per day, both planned activity and free play.  No longer is walking the dog adequate, experts want to see children sweaty, red-faced, and breathless every day.  If you are relying on school efforts, be aware that daily recess and physical education varies from school to school and may not be a significant contributor to your child’s daily activity level.

Nurture with nature:  The number one predictor of physical activity in children is time spent outdoors.  Get outside as a family and encourage your child to play outside as often as possible.  

Get in gear:  Let your child pick out their own active wear, shoes and sports aids.  Whether an independent exerciser or part of an athletic team, children enjoy having gear that supports their activities.  Who doesn’t love running to music?  Or shooting baskets in the driveway?  Having the right gear can rally excitement around being active and can promote movement.  For the teen, gym memberships, pedometers, and exercise groups/classes can be a positive motivator, as well.

Walk your talk:  More than 40% of a child’s health is determined by behavior.  That’s more than genetics, healthcare, or social influences.  You are your child’s behavior barometer—your child will do what you do.  So get moving on getting moving!

Breaking down barriers:  Identify any road blocks that may get in the way of your family’s activity level, such as busy work schedules.  Find solutions, not excuses, for how to deal with these road blocks that will fit your unique family circumstances.

Be Tech Savvy:  If your child is having a difficult time giving up video games, try compromising with ones that are more active and interactive.  Hands-on video games, TV exercise programs, and interactive websites can be the beginning of increased activity for your child.

Physical activity is a necessary part of being healthy and having a healthy future.  And often, one avenue of activity is not the magic pill—it is a conglomeration of several efforts, each and every day.  Why Weight?

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Our body shape and size is predominantly determined by genetics.  Look at mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, great-grandma and great grandpa, and you will get an idea of what you are to look like, in part.  Your body frame, the way you carry your weight, be it in the hips, thighs, or the tummy, and your predisposition to illness, like cardiac disease, high blood pressure, or cancer, largely come from your genes.

Outside of genetics, our environment may play an even more impressive role in our body shape and size.  Our environment includes the food we eat, how we eat, when and how much we move our bodies, our behaviors around food and eating, and our priorities and methods of taking care of ourselves.

Many people want to change the way they look–especially adolescents.  Research indicates that by age 13, about 85% of girls have attempted dieting.  Furthermore, the age of dieting onset is getting younger– 15% of girls by age eleven.  Five and six year olds are aware of dieting. Additionally, research indicates that dieting among teens of ALL weights (underweight, normal weight, and overweight) corresponds with unhealthy behaviors around eating and food and may be associated with a depressed mood.  Risk of disordered eating, eating disorders, and weight gain have been associated with teen dieting.

What can we do?  We need to help our teens re-align their beliefs and attitudes about their bodies.  As parents, we need to play up the positive, including health, physical activity, natural beauty, intelligence, and internal individuality.  We need to filter out the negative messages and the unrealistic images.

How much power do we have to change our body?  Sure, we can build muscle and reduce fat stores with exercise and what we choose to eat.  But, can we really change our genetic shape and size?  Can we really change our fat storage tendencies?  Our muscle building capabilites?  Yes, to the extent our genetic make-up will allow.

So, when your daughter or son starts on a rampage to alter his/her diet, and/or exercise more, because they don’t like their body shape or body size, remind them of their genes.  Remind them that genes are predetermined and “set in stone”.  Remind them that they will be tall, or short, or stocky, or slim, or narrow-hipped or blessed with “birthing hips”, because they come from your family….and that’s how your family looks.

Empower your child to make the most of their genetic potential.  We all have the genetic potential and the power to be healthy– and that comes from eating well and being active.  Getting comfy in your genes is about accepting your body for its natural shape and size, optimizing your genetic health potential through active living and healthy eating …NOT about dieting to fit into those jeans.

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