Regular Physical Activity and Good Nutrition Go Together. They Are Life-Long Habits That Young People Should Pick Up.
Exercising helps you relax, makes you more fit, and makes you look and feel better. Nutrition is how we fuel our body. Exercise and good nutrition are things families can do together. They are habits kids learn early and that have an important impact that lasts their whole lives. Physical inactivity contributes to 300,000 preventable deaths a year in the United States&A sedentary lifestyle is a major risk factor across the spectrum of preventable diseases that lower the quality of life and kill Americans."In fact, not only are physical activity and good nutrition important for health, studies show they help young people do well in school, too.
Parents Can Help Teens and Pre-teens Stay Fit
As a parent you should educate your children on how to be physically fit in order to live a long and healthy life. But how do you do that? Here are some tips to help you in your quest.
- Start teaching children early about being healthy. Stressing healthy habits from birth is important. But it's not too late to start now. Being physically active and eating wisely with your children set the "healthy" example. Spending this time shows your child that you believe good nutrition and fitness are important. As they get older, keep talking to them about it.
- Be a healthy model for your teen. Your child looks to you for advice and wisdom. The exercise and diet patterns that you have developed will become their models. They will notice if you eat balanced meals, handle stress well, and are active. The whole family can join the "Y", a sports league, a gym, etc.
- Limit activities that involve little or no physical activity. Television, video games, and computers offer a lot of inactivity! Limit the amount of time each day that your children have access to these and any other sedentary activities like card playing and board games, talking on the telephone, etc. Don't forget that their days already have sedentary activities built in, with school and homework.
- Encourage activities that are full of physical activity. Joining after school intramurals, recreation, or sports teams is one way to do this. Other ways include joining fitness centers, activities like dance groups and karate, or walking to school. Activities are also more popular if done with friends. Instead of listening to music in their rooms alone, they can wear a Walkman and be physically active while listening to music and walking with their friends.
- Volunteer or do community service. If your teen finds it difficult to join a sport team or activity, how about volunteering at the local senior center? A place such as this offers teens somewhere to feel important and feel needed. Senior citizens love to spend time with youth and they love to have the opportunity to be physically active, through dance and exercise. There are also opportunities for teens to join and train for local walkathons and other similar activities.
- Do not reward your teens by using food. Although celebrations are often accompanied by food, eating as a reward is not a good habit for your children to learn. Offer other rewards such as activities. Roller-skating/blading, skateboarding, swimming, ice-skating, and others are all great activities that teens love doing.
- Include your teens in household cooking activities. Involve your teens in buying food and preparing meals. This is a great way to teach your children about how good nutrition helps our bodies reach and maintain good health. Moderation (not too much) and variety (different kinds of foods) are the keys to good nutrition. Eating a variety of foods in moderation can help us acquire the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that our bodies need.
- Keep healthy snacks around the house. Snacks that are high in sugar, fat, or salt are all right as a treat, every once in awhile. But the rest of the time, teens need healthy foods - fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat proteins. Try offering snacks your teen hasn't tried before. Try mangos, kiwis or a yogurt/fruit smoothie; fresh vegetables dipped in cottage cheese or hummus; brown rice chips or a whole-grain cereal bar; nuts or seeds. You may both be surprised at how much your teen likes them.
- Tune into what your teens like. Teens are more apt to do things if they enjoy doing them. If they like activities that include friends, be sure to include them whenever possible. A lot of teens also like technology. Buying a pedometer or heart rate monitor can give your child that added push to be more active. The pedometer counts how many steps your child takes a day. Your child can be in control of meeting the goal of 10,000 steps a day. A heart rate monitor shows how many times your heart beats each minute. The heart rate monitor is a great tool for knowing when your heart is in its target heart rate zone. It helps you know when you need to work hard, are working hard enough, or too hard.
- Helping around the house. Teens can get a lot of physical activity by helping with chores around the house. Lawn mowing, gardening, vacuuming, shoveling snow, etc. offer lots of time for physical activity. Be sure to tell them how much you appreciate their help.
- Get involved at school. Meet with your child's teachers to ask about the school's physical education program. Many physical education departments throughout the state do not meet the 100 minutes per week of health and physical education required by the state. If your child's school doesn't offer enough time for health and physical education classes, ask the administrators for answers. Advocate for your children. Show your children how to be an advocate for themselves, too.
Elements of Physical Fitness
To help our children become physically fit, first we must understand the parts of physical fitness. To achieve physical fitness you must be fit in the following areas:
- Cardio-Respiratory or Aerobic Endurance - the ability to do moderate strenuous activity over a period of time (running, swimming, jumping rope, cycling, etc.)
- Muscular Endurance - the ability to repeat a movement many times, or hold the position for a sustained period of time (lifting weights, push ups, pull ups, crunches, etc.)
- Muscular Strength - the ability to lift the heaviest weight you can, one time (lifting weights, etc.)
- Flexibility - the ability to move a joint through its full range of motion (arm circles, calf stretching, leg extensions, etc.)
- Body Composition - the proportion of fat to muscle and bone in your body.
Young People Need to Be Active Every Day.
According to the American Cancer Society, the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, and the US Departments of Agriculture and Health & Human Services:
All adolescents and pre-adolescents should aim for at least 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity most days of the week, preferably every day. This can be done in several sessions each day. Participating in a variety of activities is helpful.
National Coalition for Physical Activity
Links to fact sheets and other resources.
VERB (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Resources to help 9-13 year olds be physically active
BAM - Body and Mind (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Resources for 9-13 year olds, to help them make healthy choices
President's Challenge (President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports)
For adults, kids, teens, and teachers
Works to promote nutrition for kids in Rhode Island
Rhode Island Department of Health, Initiative for a Healthy Weight and Nutrition Program
1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2001). Physical Activity Fact Sheet.
2 Action for Healthy Kids. (2002). Fact Sheet: Nutrition, Physical Activity and Achievement
3 American Cancer Society. (2002). "The Complete Guide - Physical Activity and Nutrition."; US Department of Agriculture, US Department of Health & Human Services. (2000). Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2000, 5th Edition. National Association for Sport and Physical Education. (2003) "Press Release: Children need greater amounts of physical activity in 2004."
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