Fitness for Children - foundation for a long healthy life

Physical activity is an integral part of your child's life; it tremendously impacts physical, intellectual, and emotional development. As adults, we are responsible for being role models for our children, sharing with them the pleasures and benefits of a physically active lifestyle. Developing a love of sports and a habit of regular physical activity as a child can be the foundation for a long, healthy life.

With child obesity reaching epidemic levels, there has been no more critical time than now to focus on child and adolescent fitness. These problems are exacerbated by our more sedentary lifestyles, with children being content to sit in front of computers all day instead of joining sports teams and other physically demanding activities.

Proper nutrition also is essential for your child. As with physical activity, you are a role model. Your child will likely follow your example when you choose and prepare healthful foods. The first step toward helping your child eat a healthier diet is making various nutritious foods available at home. That way, your child can choose what he or she likes.

Make family meals a priority, beginning with breakfast. Breakfast is outstanding because it provides a significant part of a child's daily energy supply. Children who eat breakfast are better nourished and are more likely to meet their daily need for specific essential vitamins and minerals than breakfast skippers. Parents should keep an assortment of convenient, nutritious breakfast choices available and within easy reach of their children. The best options are high-carbohydrate, low-fat foods like cereal or cereal bars, low-fat milk, and fruit.

Getting involved in your child's diet and fitness routine will show your support, help foster a great relationship, and lay a foundation for 
being fitness-minded for many generations.

What Parents Can Do

Here are some other activity tips you can follow:
  • Monitor TV watching, computer games, and computer time other than homework. Set a limit -- an hour a day -- on TV watching. 
  • Make sure kids have time to be outside. 
  • Plan outdoor activities as a family.
  • Enroll kids in after-school gymnastics, soccer, or swimming programs. 
  • Join a gym with a child activity program. More and more health clubs are doing this. 
  • Walk around the neighborhood with the kids after dinner.
  • Make yard work a game that the kids participate in.
  • Make healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables available in the home. 
  • Find alternatives to fast food. 
  • Starting in the toddler years, limit the child's juice intake. 
Provide easy-to-eat snack alternatives. Have cut-up celery and carrots on hand. Don't entirely deprive kids of less healthy snacks. Kids who feel deprived are more likely to gorge on these foods when they can get their hands on them. Moderation is the key.

Remember where your kids learn about a healthy lifestyle.

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