Friday, March 13, 2009

Is Your Kid a Couch Potato?

With the popularity of TV, the internet, and video games, it’s no wonder kids aren't as active as they used to be.  We all know our kids should exercise, but how do we get them to do that?

Childhood obesity is a huge problem. When exercise is competing with 24 hours of cartoons and video games galore, there is more to draw a child inside.  Snack foods continue to be a problem and, as kids are engaging in less activity, the snack foods are increasingly translating into added pounds.

So what can be done?  Telling your child that he or she needs 60 minutes of moderate exercise while there is a cartoon on the television, or telling them to eat a piece of fruit instead of chips is not likely to work.. If you child won't get off the couch, you need to have a strategy for modifying his/her habits—here’s something to try:

1.  Have your child come up with some specific activities they can do for a set amount of time. Maybe it’s kicking a soccer ball for 15 minutes, or shooting baskets, or swinging. Having your child help you set the activities will get them more involved. 

2. Stay on top of what they are doing—your child needs feedback—talk about the progress your kids are making.  If they're meeting their goals, cheer on the hard work.  If they're not, find out why. 

3.  Exercise must be a priority. This means you need to turn the tv. Off or put the game boy up for a while. Make sure they have some things they need to be active, balls, toys etc.  While there may be resistance to this, over time most kids will come along.

4.  You must model the behaviors for your child. If you are sitting around and inactive, not only is it bad for your health, but it sends a very strong message to your kids. The whole "do as I say, not as I do" thing simply doesn't it cut it when it comes to helping kids develop good habits. 

5.  As strange as it sounds, reward your kids for exercising and eating well. We reward kids for good grades, why not for good health? If all goes well, your kids will be working hard to meet their goals.  Show them you've noticed by giving them specific praise.  This will make your children feel good, and it will make it more likely that they'll keep up the hard work. 

This all comes down to helping our children break bad habits and develop healthy ones.  It’s a very different world- where convenience food and convenience programming make it hard for kids to be active. Beating the couch potato habit means actively activating your child.

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