By Steve Adams
News flash: Exercise and proper nutrition is good for all of us to be healthy. I’m sure you’re thinking, thanks Captain Obvious, and in other news, water is wet.
However, for children and teens this statement couldn’t be more important.
The eating and activity habits children have as they grow up, especially as teenagers, affect how they behave later as adults. An article by Frank M. Biro in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “Childhood obesity and adult morbidities,” states “Overweight children are more prone to becoming overweight adults, especially at higher BMIs or if they have an obese parent. Two-thirds of children in the highest BMI quartile transitioned into the highest BMI quartile as young adults. Obesity during the adolescent years is associated with many adverse health consequences, and dietary habits, physical inactivity, and rates and degree of obesity become worse with the transition from the teen years into the young adult years.”
Parents want the best for their kids. They push for them to get in the right schools from a young age, make grades and test scores a priority and avoid trouble that could affect their ability to pursue a good life later on.
The scary thing is that one of the most important things, their health, is often last on their list or not on the list at all.
I don’t mean being sick or anything like that, of course most all parents are concerned when their child is sick and will do most anything to get them to back to healthy.
However, if we look at a health continuum created by Greg Glassman as “sickness” being on one end and “fitness” on the other, most parents are just trying to keep their kids at the middle at a point we’d call the “wellness” part of the spectrum. Not sick, but not fit.
In the case of obese children, they’re even farther down the scale towards “sickness.”
When we drive our children to be the best they can be academically, why not do the same with their health and encourage a lifestyle on the “fitness” end?
Probably the biggest reason … It takes effort.
It doesn’t have to be though. Here are some simple ways to promote a more fit child and family:
- Be active yourself. It can be something as simple as just taking a walk in the evening or going to the gym together to swim. Leading by example in this case will benefit you and them.
- Get rid of the crap food at home. I love Oreos. They’re absolutely delicious and if I have them at home, I devour them. However, if they’re not, I really don’t miss them and will substitute with a healthier snack if that’s available. Almonds, cashews, bananas, apples, beef jerky are all better alternatives. Your kid may whine, but a little tough love in this aspect never hurt anyone. Make dinners that limit the carbohydrates (pasta, breads and sugars) and focus on protein and fats (meats, poultry, fish).
- Limit screen time. Kids love their TV, gaming systems, iPhones and computers. While electronics have done some great things for society, they’ve also made us and especially children lazy. Limit time on their device to 1 hour in the evening. Encourage them to go out with friends, workout, get involved in school activities or (gasp) read a book.
- Encourage involvement in sports. One of the great things kids have at their disposal is access to some fantastic activities with sports at school. Even if they’re not the greatest player, they still can get some great physical activity during practice.
In the end, being fit helps kids:
- Keep a clear mental mind and improves intellectual ability/concentration.
- Stave off depression and anxiety and improves self-esteem.
- Relieve stress.
- Improve sleep.
- Increase alertness.
- Provide more avenues to be social and meet new people.
- Keep. one more prepared physically for anything life throws at them.
- Increase lifespan and quality of life throughout that lifespan.
Who wouldn’t want these things for their child? Simply staying at the “wellness” point won’t do any of this.
Make fitness a priority for your child, family and you. It may be the best gift you ever give them.
Steve Adams has been a nutrition and fitness consultant for 10 years and is a Level 2 CrossFit Instructor among other fitness certifications. He also holds a bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University and a MBA from Harvard Business School. Steve owns and operates CrossFit Kaiju (www.CrossFitKaiju.com) and Matthews Personal Training (www.matthewspersonaltraining.com) in Matthews.