Childhood Obesity Awareness Month
Monday, September 19, 2016
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 20% of children ages 2-5 in the United States are overweight or obese. September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and this is a good opportunity to create and encourage healthy behaviors. Consider the following advice to make physical activity a natural part of each day, and to help create a healthy lifestyle change and increase the activity levels of our young people.
A Movement Mindset
Create an environment in which movement and physical activity is the norm. Changes to your child’s lifestyle habits will not happen overnight. As a family, designating a few minutes each day to having fun and being active together will be the building blocks for long term health and wellness.
“I challenge families to set aside even 10 minutes a day to be active together,” says Michelle Pierquet, a certified personal trainer at the Green Bay YMCA. Michelle encourages families to “engage in a variety of activities, focus on having fun, and be active often. If you do this every single day, you’ll all start to look forward to your family exercise routine.”
Family activities can include playing at the park, going for a walk, or organizing a neighborhood game of kickball.
Carrot vs. Stick
Rather than using physical activity and healthy behaviors as negative consequences, or “the stick,” turn them into positive encouragement, or “the carrot.” Positive reinforcement will help kids look forward to being active. For those who struggle with weight, negative body image, and low self-esteem, setting up positive support systems will improve a child’s attitude towards healthy behaviors starting at a young age.
Katie Dzurick is an American Counsel of Exercise certified personal trainer and a first grade teacher at Luxemburg-Casco. In her experience in both youth development and fitness, Katie sees changes in behavior when kids are allowed to earn physical activity. “When kids see play and activity as a reward for positive actions, then behaviors change,” says Katie. She uses the example that “if my student or class completes a challenge or assignment, they can earn extra playing time outside. Improving the perception of physical activity can be as simple as turning a ‘stick’ into a ‘carrot’.”
Offer Alternative Activities
It is important to recognize that not all physical activity requires ball skills or hand-eye coordination. Children do not all grow up to be Michael Jordan. It is important to provide other physical activity options besides traditional sports.
Having little interest or natural ability in a traditional sport is no reason to be inactive. Often times less structured activities can be beneficial to children, such as a Parkour class. The YMCA offers Parkour training classes, which is an interactive method of using your body and creativity to navigate one’s physical environment.
Children who are naturally quiet may benefit from “silent sports” such as cycling, hiking, canoeing, or swimming. These active alternatives can help children develop a healthy relationship with physical activity, which they can carry with them as they grow into adulthood.
There are many ways we can positively influence the current and long term health of our children. Take time this month to recognize and assess the physical activity and lifestyle habits of the children closest to us. By prioritizing the future health and well-being of your family, we can all do our part to make childhood obesity and inactivity a thing of the past.
Nick Rozek Greater Green Bay YMCA
Workplace Wellness Coordinator & Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist