One in three kids is overweight or obese, according to The New England Journal of Medicine, and an increasing number of children are showing early warning signs of heart disease.
Fast-food meals and sedentary lifestyles of watching TV and playing computer games are adding to the problem. The key for parents is to “live a healthy-body-weight message, every day, and your kids will naturally come along for the ride,” says author Tom Gilliam, co-author of Move It. Lose It. Live Healthy: The Simple Truth about Achieving & Maintaining a Healthy Body Weight.
He offers these tips for a fit family:
Teach kids good health is their responsibility. Explain that their body weight is connected to their overall health, and that their health is the most precious asset they will ever possess. Use hard numbers to measure body weight. For kids 10 and older, teach them about BMI—a body mass index chart that uses height and weight data as a measuring stick for fitness or obesity. A BMI measurement between 18.5 and 25 is optimal. Visit NHLBIsupport.com/bmi/. Educate older kids in how to read food labels. When kids learn how to read food labels, they will be able to see that sodas (for example) are prohibitively high in sugar. Chart their progress. It’s always helpful for kids to see what they have achieved in black-and-white terms. Get a calendar and have your kids write down their fitness activities for the day, such as “walked the dog” or “went hiking.” Find fun activities you can do as a group. Don’t just sip a cool drink and watch, be part of the action! Join your kids and take regular walks in the woods, go inline skating at the park, jump rope or do a yoga DVD. Model good eating habits for your kids. When you reach for an orange instead of a bag of chips, your kids will go for the good stuff, too. Try stocking up on healthy snacks like fresh fruit, raisins and natural peanut butter. Make a game out of shopping for healthy foods. Introduce an unusual fruit or vegetable—like artichokes or guava—to your children each week at the store. Pair your child with a buddy for exercise. If your daughter’s friend is into horseback riding or ballet, encourage your daughter to get involved, too. Make peer pressure positive. Challenge your kids to help you find ways to sneak in exercise. Take the stairs in the mall, not the elevator or escalator. Connect exercise with activities kids already like to do. If your kids are interested in science, take them on weekly nature walks to identify plants or bugs. Use books, videos and other stories to help drive the point home. If you have a teenager who loves to read, consider a subscription to a fitness magazine. Let your child wear a pedometer every day. Kids who love gadgets will love measuring their steps. Consider exercise in the morning. Between after-school events, dinner and homework, it’s difficult to squeeze in exercise at the end of the day. Try getting up earlier and going for a walk as a family. You will feel better all day.