#039;Get out and play#039; tips for children battling obesity

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 3, 2005

It has become a known fact that most of the weight-gain children experience is during the holidays when they are out of school. It is also an added that fact that children who lead sedentary lifestyles are more susceptible to health problems such as childhood obesity, diabetes or even some heart problems.

In the Fall 2004 issue of Sporting Kid Magazine, it states that Type II Diabetes has become a growing concern for children. According to the article, one-in-four children who lead sedentary lifestyles are at a high risk of developing Type II Diabetes. Researchers found that 52 percent of the children screened for the study exceeded the body mass index guidelines set by the American Diabetes Association.

The study also concluded that 57 percent of the students screened, watched more than three hours of television per school day and 31 percent of those watched five hours or more.

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As a response to this growing trend in the youth of America, several campaigns have been started to basically slim down the youth.

In Sporting Kids Magazine, they offer six tips to help children curtail their weight problems without using drastic measures such as crash dieting or diuretics.

The magazine might have kids in the title, but it is geared towards children and parents both.

The article entitled 6 tips to fight childhood obesity has a line that says the parent is the starting point.

That is a truism, especially for the first tip which says:

Tip 1: Be a role model

– according to the magazine, this can be a touchy subject. Parents should be fit, if not for themselves, then for their children. The parents always should lead by example.

Tip 2: Decrease Television and Video Games – two things occur when children watch television: they are inactive and they tend to snack as they watch. If an activity is not labeled as "exercise," it may stand a better chance when going up against a video game.

Tip 3: Praise Healthy Food Choices – A child should be offered a healthy snack before they are offered a candybar.

Tip 4: Never, ever reward with food - Statements such as "If you are good we'll go get McDonalds," or "If you behave, I will get you ice cream," reinforce a lifetime of unhealthy eating habits. Everything will become an excuse for the child to eat unhealthy foods.

Tip 5: Don't be fooled by what advertisers call "healthy" -

Just because an advertised item is said to be full of vitamins and minerals, parents should be weary of the other things that they possess. Those things are sugars and empty calories.

Tip 6: Enroll your child in an activity program - Not all physical activities are sport related. Parents should enroll their children in other types of activities, such as Karate or Ballet classes. These classes not only encourage kids to be healthy and active, but they also promote a healthy and disciplined lifestyle.

Studies show the children like exercises that are brief. Weight training is brief, plus it improves metabolism, strengthens bones and ligaments.

Parents should note that before they enter their children into any form of athletic or activity program, they need to check and make sure the staff is qualified and professional.

The author of the article, Kelly Huggins points out: "Kids don't have to participate in organized athletics to be healthy, but every child can and should be fit."

To illustrate this point, Farihope Elementary's Kristie Andres was featured in the Nov. 15, Sports Illustrated.

Andres from Hope Hull, a graduate of Hooper Academy and a 1998 graduate of the University of South Alabama with a degree in physical education explained the way she conducts and schedules her physical education class.

During the school year she changes up ways to keep her children interested in different types of sports and physical activities.

In September, children can test their strength and coordination on an 8-by-40 foot climbing wall.

She also teaches in-line skating for two weeks and then gives them a crash course in volleyball.

"Maybe 20 percent of my kids are hardcore athletes," said Andres.

"I have to concentrate on getting the other kids involved."

In October the students will begin a running program that will be set for every Monday until the end of the school year. She also adds jumping rope and basic football skills into the equation.

In November, she allows her creativity to be fully displays when she breaks out the fitness board game.

According to the article, Andres took one of her daughters Candyland boards and covered it with white paper.

From there she created a game where the children participating move their pieces based on whether or not they complete various physical fitness tasks.

"The game is centered on upper-body strength," said Andres, "because kids are so weak in their upper bodies."

She also has the children participate in line dancing and square dancing during the month of November.

"According to experts, there is no activity that engages young girls better than dancing."

In December students can participate in parachute activities that encourage upper body strength and hand-eye coordination.

In January the children learn the basic fundamentals of basketball. That carries over into February where the children begin practicing for their "Spring Fever Chase."

It's a two-mile run through downtown Fairhope.

In March, students are encouraged to play a form of tag. The only difference is that they don't use their hands, they tag each other with bright red, rubber-foam, tomahawks that Andres purchased during Atlanta Braves baseball games.

With two months left in the school year, Andres class tends to get more focused on getting children healthy for summer when they are on their own.

Students learn Frisbee skills which start with hitting targets and then advances to Frisbee golf.

In May, Andres allows the students to decide what they do. She takes requests for favorite sports.

With all there is to do and explore, children shouldn't sit around and let the television entertain them.