By Rae Pica
Here's some of the bad news about sedentary lifestyles:
• Forty percent of children ages 5 to 8 show at least one heart
disease risk factor, including hypertension and obesity, which among children
has doubled over the past two decades.
• The first signs of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the
arteries) are appearing at age 5 – something never before seen in anyone under
the age of 30.
• Children 6 to 10 are dying of sudden cardiopulmonary arrest.
• According to a recent Centers for Disease Control study,
American children born in 2000 face a one-in-three chance of developing Type 2
diabetes – what used to be called adult-onset diabetes!
• This is thought to be the first generation of children that
won't outlive their parents.
The good news is that it doesn't take much to turn things
around. We just have to make sure our kids are physically active! Following are
some tips for making that happen:
1. Turn off the TV! Research shows children are being
electronically entertained an average of five to six hours a week. Without
electronics, they'll have to find other ways to keep themselves entertained.
2. Encourage your children to engage in active play. Research
shows that the children who are most active are those whose parents have
encouraged them to be active.
3. Play with your children! Blow bubbles for them to chase, play
tag and hide-and-seek, put on an up-tempo song and boogie in the living room, or
put on a John Philip Sousa march – or break out the pots and pans – and hold a
parade around the house!
4. Serve as a role model, taking part in physical activity –
cheerfully – yourself.
5. Take the children to parks, playgrounds, beaches, and on
hikes during vacations and weekends – instead of to amusement parks, where
they'll stand in lines and then sit on rides.
6. Don't send the wrong message about physical activity by
endlessly circling the parking lot for the spot closest to the door. Instead,
make a game out of parking as far from the door as possible and finding
different ways to get to it (walking backward, tiptoeing, jogging, or skipping).
7. When it's time for gift giving, select items like hula hoops;
balls in a variety of shapes, sizes, and textures; roller skates; or a wading
pool or swing set. When shopping for games, Twister has more to offer than a
board game. And CDs with lively music are a better choice than movie videos.
8. Don't expect organized sports to take care of your child's
physical activity needs. There's more waiting than moving in most organized,
9. Fight to keep physical education and recess in your child's
school – or, if necessary, to get them back! The research shows that, among
other things, physical activity contributes to a better attitude toward school
and improves academic achievement and test scores!
10. Make sure your child associates physical activity with FUN!
Rae Pica is a children's physical activity specialist and the author of Your
Active Child: How to Boost Physical, Emotional, and Cognitive Development
through Age-Appropriate Activity (McGraw-Hill, 2003). Visit her and read more