by Antonio Sini

In the U.S., approximately 20% of our children and adolescents 2-19 years old are obese.  That’s 3X as many kids as were obese in 1980.   Despite all our ongoing efforts, 13 million kids are severely overweight.  Are we really doing everything we can to change our children’s health habits and insure them a healthy and happy future?

You’d think as a nation, helping our kids to be more active would be one of our highest priorities! However, the one place where we should be teaching them the importance of physical fitness, in school, is where phys ed programs are being severely downgraded or eliminated all together.  In fact, only 8% of elementary schools, 6.4% of middle schools, and 5.8% of high schools provide daily physical education to all of its students. (READ THIS)

And is it a coincidence that around the mid 1980s, when electronic gaming systems were introduced to the market, we started to see an increase in overweight kids?  Statistics show that obesity rates in children exploded during the era of PS3 and Xbox 360.  It’s become obvious kids don’t run outside and play like they used to.

As parents, what do we do?  Here are 5 tips to help get your kids on a path to long-term health and wellness, and keep them on it!

1. Be a role model. This tip is the most important! Show children physical activity is an important part of your life by enthusiastically participating in it.  My 3-year-old son often goes with mommy to the gym and sees me go off to mountain bike on the weekends.  Not coincidentally, he now wants to learn how to ride a bike.

2. Participate with your child (e.g., schedule physical activities you can do together: play catch, teach them to ride a bike, go rowing on a lake, etc).

3. Encourage your child to participate on sports teams or join classes. (e.g., Little League, Karate class, gymnastics, dance school etc.)  My wife and I enrolled our son in Karate and he loves it!

4. Select gifts that encourage physical activity (e.g., a ball, a bicycle, a pair of in-line skates).

5. Limit television viewing and video game play.  In my house we literally save TV time for rainy days.  If it’s nice outside we’re in the backyard playing tag or having fun in the park.  Have your child “earn” time for video games or watching television by accumulating minutes of physical activity.

There is a powerful relationship between childhood obesity and lifelong weight and related medical problems.   Exercise along with a balanced diet provides the foundation for a healthy, active life.  One of the most important things you can do as a parent is encourage healthy habits in your children.  The earlier on in life, the better but its never too late to start.

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