According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 1 in 5 children in the United States has obesity. With September being National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, it is a great time to discuss fun ways parents can keep their children–and themselves–physically active.
Here’s the thing: Children with obesity are more likely to carry the medical condition into adulthood, which could potentially lead to debilitating physical and mental problems, including diabetes and an increased risk of certain types of cancer.
What can parents do to help ward off obesity in their children? For starters, energy balance is critical. Make sure your kids are getting enough sleep, eating the ideal amount of calories, and partaking in regular physical activities–which can be a ton of fun if you follow our recommendations below.
* Introduce your children to nontraditional sports. Think skateboarding, mountain biking, and canoeing. Not every child excels at the most common sports like football and baseball, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t athletic–it could just mean they haven’t found their niche. Luckily, Austin is jam-packed with trails and waterways for your kiddos to test their skills.
* Walk, don’t drive. Now that the dog days of summer are behind us, the temps are at that sweet spot when walking is a much more viable option–so lace up those tennis shoes, and the next time your family decides to visit your local hangout, why not walk instead?
* Make a new family rule: No sitting still during TV commercials. Can you imagine the fun this rule might ensue? Encourage your kids to dance, do jumping jacks, stretch, or anything else that prevents them from sitting still. Bonus: You don’t have to completely cut out television time with this rule.
* Design an obstacle course. Three-legged races, hurdles crafted from old blankets, bean bag tosses–these are all activities you can create with items you likely already have in your home. Watch as your child’s imagination takes off as they come up with even more challenges.
* Play a modified version of “I Spy.” We all know the original version of this game, but here’s a new spin: Make a list of items in your neighborhood that you want your child to “spy,” then go for a walk in hunt of the items. Want to make it even more interesting? Put a time limit on the search in order to encourage your child to get moving!
If you have as much fun as your children will while participating in these activities, don’t worry–we won’t tell.
This article was written by Diane M. McCullom, the senior vice president of clinical operations at Dallas-based Epic Health Services, a leading provider of pediatric skilled nursing, therapy, developmental, enteral and respiratory services, as well as adult home health services, with operations in 17 states. Epic has three locations in Austin.