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Health & Fitness: Childhood Obesity vs. Technology

KIM

 

By Kim Duke, NETA & AFAA Certified Trainer

In my last article, I gave up my age to point out that getting older is no reason to stop exercising. Instead, it is the main reason to continue to exercise.

That said, because of my age I grew up quite differently than kids of today.  I, like most of my friends and acquaintances, grew up doing strange things like playing hide-and-go-seek, tag, hopscotch and anything else we could think of to get outside. It wasn’t because our parents forced us to, or even suggested it. Instead, it was innate – a part of our lifestyles.  Even in the winter, we headed outdoors to build snowmen and go sledding.  And as I grew older, I got involved with organized sports and skiing and was always doing something to stay active.

Nowadays, many kids are sedentary more than they are active. And, it now seems to be a parent’s responsibility to create the fun. Otherwise kids will happily spend hours with their faces and attention engrossed in some sort of technology gadget.

Parents are having a hard time prioritizing a healthy lifestyle for their kids and technology is partly to blame, according to a survey conducted by the YMCA in 2011. Speaking with more than 1,600 parents of kid’s ages 5 to 10, the YMCA found that technology, time and money are the biggest hindrances to “carving out time for physical activity.” Forty-two percent of parents said “technological distractions – social networks, computer games and cell phones – are getting in the way of active play.”

Even though parents are partially blaming technology as a reason for the lack of exercise, according to the YMCA survey, “74 percent of parents opt to spend family time with their kids sitting in front of the TV,” and “53 percent spend leisure time with their kids on the computer and playing video games.”

It’s hard to blame technology as a cause of kids’ inactivity if parents are sitting right beside them on the couch. Plus, it is typically the parent that has purchased that technology that their kids are plastered to.

As a parent myself, I have given in to the tireless begging for certain technological devices and have found myself watching TV in the evenings versus playing with my kids.  But, what it boils down to in this modern age is that I do not feel parents should be made to feel guilty or responsible for playing with their kids. We are responsible for their health and creating a healthy lifestyle.

I was fortunate to have parents that did just that. Nowadays, kids come from quite a variety of households, from single parent to multi parent.  We do not all live in the neighborhoods of yesterday.  But, I do believe that ultimately parents all want their kids to be healthy.

School-age kids should have many chances to participate in a variety of activities, sports, and games that fit their personality, ability, age and interests.  So, brainstorm with your kids on activities that feel right. Most kids won’t mind a daily dose of fitness as long as it’s fun.

Limit time spent in sedentary activities, such as watching TV, being online and playing video games and games apps. YOU are the parent, take their phones away, or unplug the TV and other devices distracting your child.  If we are going to blame technology as one of the reasons for our children being sedentary or overweight, then take the technology away.

Kids of any age need physical activity to build strength, coordination and confidence — and to lay the groundwork for a healthy lifestyle.

YES, you can play with your kids, take walks and bike rides with them and create opportunities for them to be active.  But, eventually, your kids need to take responsibility for themselves.  Plus, one of the best ways you can encourage your kids to be fit and healthy is to be fit and healthy yourself.

Typically, our lives are busy, but integrating exercise into your own life will reflect on your kids’ desire to be more active. Relaxing after 8 pm and watching TV is not the issue. Having the cupboards and fridge filled with processed snacks, junk food and sugary drinks and staring into some device for hours on end is.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that childhood obesity rates have tripled in 30 years and currently one out of every three kids is considered overweight.  So now it is every parent’s responsibility to take their kids’ health into their own hands and set a good example for a healthy lifestyle. Any advice from health experts comes back to the same basics: Eat well-balanced meals; reduce screen time; set a good example for your kids.

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