Decades ago, childhood depression and obesity were uncommon, but today we're bombarded with information about our children gaining weight or battling depression, childhood diabetes, and other growing health and emotional problems.
The statistics have skyrocketed in the last three decades alone:
- In 1982, four percent of children were overweight and childhood depression was rare.
- By 1994, 16 percent of kids were overweight and five percent were depressed.
- In 2001, 25 percent of American children were overweight and 10 percent were depressed.
What can we do to change these statistics and help our children rediscover exercise and physical activity?
7 Tips to Get Your Family Moving
The Mayo Clinic's Children's Health Center reports that TV-watching, now up to 25 hours per week on average, is the biggest culprit in children's exercise-related health problems. The clinic's doctors estimate that 60 percent of the childhood obesity cases they see are directly related to too much television, and video games and computers are next in line.
The solution is simple: Get moving! Parents must set good examples for their children and guide them to more physical activities.
The National Institute of Child Health and Development recommends children exercise for 30 to 60 minutes each day. Here are seven tips to get you and your family off the couch:
- Limit TV, computer, and video games to make sure outdoor time and active indoor play are a part of your family's daily routine.
- Keep up your own exercise habits as a model for the kids. If you are a member of a health club or family fitness center such as a YMCA, look for children or family programs.
- Encourage family activities outdoors. Take a walk after dinner or go for a swim at your local pool.
- When birthdays and holidays roll around, give (and request) gifts that encourage exercise such as new sneakers, a tricycle or bike, an outdoor game, a ball, or a jump rope.
- Encourage casual and informal sports at home. If you have older children, be sure to support sports in your school district. Many schools, health clubs, and YMCAs offer sports programs for children of all ages, from toddler mobility programs to preschool and kindergarten soccer clubs, to school-hosted basketball, baseball, football, volleyball, track, and swimming.
- Can't get outside? Turn on the tunes and host a family sock hop. Or pop in a yoga or exercise video, get the family dressed up in work-out gear, and have an exercise session in your living room.
- Enjoy family trips that promote exercise. Walking the beach, hiking through the woods, biking along a nature trail, swimming in a hotel pool or at a beach, or setting up camp at a nearby campground are all fun, family-friendly activities.
The Surgeon General reports that childhood obesity, now considered epidemic, accounts for 50 percent of new cases of sleep apnea, asthma, and pediatric diabetes. One in four children show early signs of Type II diabetes, and 60 percent show at least one risk factor of heart disease.
Being active not only will help control your and your child's weight, but it will build muscles, increase flexibility, combat depression, and fight health problems—and it is a great way for your family to have fun together!