Childhood and Juvenile Obesity: (page 3)

By — Helpguide
Updated on Nov 12, 2009

Helping my child get more exercise

Start exercising together. The best way you can ensure that your child gets plenty of aerobic play time is to lead the way. Again, this is a family affair. Become involved in your child’s daily exercise. Be enthusiastic and creative about finding ways to stay active. Play yourself! The example you set is key. Hopscotch and jump rope are great cardiovascular activities. Make sure your child knows that you are exercising, and encourage your child to keep up the habit. Show your child the value of being fit by small things such as parking farther away than necessary and walking to your destination, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

The American Heart Association recommends these exercise guidelines:

  • 30 minutes of enjoyable, moderate intensity exercise per day for all kids age 2 and older, and
  • 30 minutes of vigorous physical activities at least 3-4 times each week.

There are many creative ways to stimulate interest in physical activity and make it practical to fulfill the experts’ recommendations. The Mayo Clinic offers these suggestions for keeping your kids interested in exercise:

  • Play games your elementary school child loves, like tag, cops and robbers, Simon Says and Red Light, Green Light. If you don't remember the rules for these games, make up your own or walk to your local library and check out a book on games.
  • Let your toddlers and preschoolers see how much fun you can have while being active. Don't just run with them. Run like a gorilla. Walk like a spider. Hop like a bunny. Stretch like a cat.
  • Plan your family vacations around physical activities—hiking, biking, skiing, snorkeling, swimming, walking the dog, or camping. Take along a ball or Frisbee disc to sneak in some activity at rest stops.
  • Make chores a family affair. Who can pull the most weeds out of the vegetable garden? Who can collect the most litter in the neighborhood? Have your kids help shovel the snow off the driveway and use that excess snow to build a huge snow fort.
  • Vary the activities. Let each child take a turn choosing the activity of the day or week. Batting cages, bowling and fast-food play areas all count. What matters is that you're doing something active as a family.
  • Use physical activity to counter something your child doesn’t want to do. For instance, make it the routine that your child can ride a bike for 30 minutes before starting homework after school. Your child will beg for 20 more minutes outside just to put off the homework!

Effectively limiting how much television my child watches

Limiting television time leads indirectly to more exercise time. The experts say to keep television watching to less than two hours a day. By extension, this includes other sedentary activities like playing video games and spending non-academic time on the computer. These tips from the American Heart Association help you to set limits the smart way:

  • Have a plan. Be prepared to offer alternative activities to TV or video games. You might consider family game night, shooting some hoops, walking the dog or exploring a nearby park.
  • Be active with your kids. Experts say that what kids want more than anything else is time with their parents. To give them that, don’t just send them out to play — go play with them!
  • Don’t position your furniture so the TV is the main focus of the room. Remove televisions and video games from bedrooms.
  • Plan TV watching in advance. Go through the TV guide and pick the shows you want to watch. Turn the TV on for those shows and turn it off afterwards. Don’t just watch whatever comes on next.
  • Avoid using TV as a reward or punishment.
  • Practice what you preach. Your kids won’t accept being restricted to two hours of TV watching if you can veg out for four hours. The best way to influence your kids’ behavior is through example.

Always remember that your attitude matters greatly in whether your child succeeds in reversing a weight problem. Let your child know that he or she is loved and appreciated regardless of the progress made in losing weight.

References and resources for juvenile obesity


Understanding the Problem – Thorough treatment of the condition, including health statistics, physical activity suggestions and dietary guidelines. (American Heart Association)

Obesity and Overweight – Definitions, extent of the problem, and what we can do about it. (World Health Organization)

Childhood Obesity on the Rise – The online journal Word on Health explains the effects of childhood obesity and provides resources for keeping your child active. (National Institutes of Health)

Parent resources

What Can I Do? – Contains a great amount of practical information on how to work with your child in making healthy eating and regular physical exercise fun and desirable. Includes advice on how to best limit t.v. time and make fast food healthier. (American Heart Association)

Childhood Obesity: What Parents Can Do – Advice on how to involve the whole family in reversing the conditions for obesity, rather than just focusing on the overweight child. (Mayo Clinic)

Keeping Kids Active: Ideas for Parents – Many helpful suggestions for raising your child’s enthusiasm for activity, with consideration for his or her unique personality. (Mayo Clinic)

Parents Can Play a Role in Preventing Childhood Obesity (PDF) – Fact sheet gives an overview of what parents can do to help their overweight children. (Institute of Medicine)

7 (Sometimes Surprising) Secrets for Stopping Childhood Obesity – Registered dieticians Colleen Thompson and Ellen Shanley, co-authors of the book Overcoming Childhood Obesity, offer seven tips to reverse the problem of overweight in your child. Includes a link to lots of recipes at the bottom of the page. (

Helping Your Child: Tips for Parents – More suggestions on how to promote healthy eating and exercise at home. (National Institutes of Health)

Childhood Obesity Assessment Calculator – Tool that let’s you calculate your child’s Body Mass Index (BMI), in either the English (pounds, inches) or metric system. (Shape Up America)

Kids’ sites

Healthier Generation – A website for kids to educate themselves about healthy food choices and to increase their motivation for more play time. Contains funny video clips and an interactive game show. (Alliance for a Healthier Generation Kids’ Site)

NSW Health: Childhood Obesity (Australian site) – Lets children calculate their Body Mass Index (BMI), as well as plug in their answers to health and lifestyle questions for a customized “Healthy Food and Activity Guide.” (NSW Government site)

Other resources that we used in writing this article

Healthy Active Living for Children and Youth – Explains the general causes of obesity among children and adolescents. (Canadian Paediatric Society)

Childhood Obesity – General treatment of the issue from a non-professional community of parents, whose goal is to provide caregivers knowledge and advice to better raise and educate children. (KidSource Online)

The Role of Media in Childhood Obesity (PDF) – Review of over 40 studies on the impact of media on childhood obesity. (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Childhood Obesity: A Call to Action for Fitness Professionals (PDF) – An article from the American College of Sports Medicine’s certified news journal, exploring prevention and treatment of juvenile obesity, primarily from a sports medicine perspective. (American College of Sports Medicine)

The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity – Covers statistics, causes and suggestions for healthy eating and promoting physical activity among young people. (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services)

Exercise Is Key to Reversing Obesity-Related Heart Risk in Children – Results of a study tracking the effectiveness of exercise on two populations of children being treated for obesity: a diet-only group and a diet-plus-exercise group. (American Heart Association)

Overweight in Children – Explains how obesity is defined in children and how to measure Body Mass Index (BMI). (American Heart Association)

Exercise (Physical Activity) and Children – Lists exercise guidelines for children. (American Heart Association)

Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Children – American Heart Association’s position paper on dietary recommendations for infants, children, and adolescents. (American Heart Association)

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