Children, fitness and you

Be an example by putting away the bag of chips and getting off the couch.

by Heather Demeritte — 

Did you know the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed the alarming statistics that 17 percent of today’s youth are overweight and an additional 15 percent are at risk? Children face health problems previously seen only in adults, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. Why such shocking statistics? Because children are less active and consume more calorie-dense junk food.

How can you, as a parent or guardian, prevent this nationwide epidemic from spreading into your home? Be an example by putting away the bag of chips and getting off the couch. With you as a role model, you can help guide your children in the direction of living a healthy lifestyle.

You taught your children to walk and talk at a young age, so why not teach them to be healthy? Statistical facts in favor of children who engage in physical activity at a young age reveal that they suffer from fewer health problems, perform better on physical and mental performance tests and display a higher level of self-confidence than children who live a sedentary life. So, what can you do? Commit as a family to a four-step M.O.V.E. plan:

Make exercise fun: Think of activities you can do with your children. Pump up the tires in your bike and go for a leisurely ride together, explore wildlife on a hike, or release your inner-child and play tag. Physical activity does not require money or expensive toys, only the incomparable value of your time.

Off with the TV: There is a strong relationship between TV viewing and obesity. The first step to reducing TV time is to take the tube out of your child’s room because children with a TV in their room watch an average of five hours more than those in a single-TV home, which leads to obesity. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of TV watching daily. The best advice is no TV, but if you and your child must watch a show, use the commercial breaks as time to complete a set of push-ups, sit ups or jumping jacks together.

View exercise with a positive outlook: Teach your children that physical activity can be fun by keeping a positive view of exercise. Your words regarding exercise are just as important as your example. Do you hear yourself complain about being too tired to exercise? Appeal to your children’s need of peer interaction by inviting them to include a friend or join an organized sports team. Offer positive feedback on their performance. With your support and encouragement, you can help your children achieve healthy viewpoints on exercise.

Eat right: Your children may not be the only ones who will not eat their veggies, but together you can develop an appreciation for highly nutritious and filling produce, lean meats and even low-calorie desserts. Find a kid-friendly cookbook that emphasizes healthy eating. Involve your kids in preparation and food shopping. You can “have your cake and eat it too” by modifying favorite recipes. Snack smart by stocking up on portable fruit, cut-up veggies and snack-size portions of pretzels.

Your children will not do something just because you tell them to. They learn from your example. Make exercise a family affair. Your health and well-being will improve, too. So, lace up yours and your kids’ in-line skates, grab your helmets and pads, and get ready to roll into fitness.


Heather Demeritte is employed as a fitness instructor and dance teacher at Scottsdale Community College, as well as various fitness centers in Scottsdale, Ariz. She is certified by the American Council of Exercise with a degree in early childhood development and works with an organization helping youths learn fun ways to be fit. 480-310-5854 or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 2, April/May 2008.

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